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Post-election checks find minuscule problems in Nebraska's general election

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2022 Election results for Omaha area races

LINCOLN — Secretary of State Bob Evnen reported Friday that two recent tests have confirmed the accuracy and integrity of the November general election.

One test involved hand counting ballots from a sample of voting precincts across the state. In the other, election officials compared the list of people who voted in the November election with the number of ballots tabulated.

In both cases, Evnen said the evaluations found only “minuscule” discrepancies.

“These evaluations demonstrate the very high degree of accuracy and integrity of Nebraska’s ballot counting and reporting process,” he said. “Nebraska voters can be confident that their ballots will continue to be cast securely and counted and reported accurately.”

Nebraska has done the first type of test since 2008. In the past, 2% to 3% of ballots have been audited manually after each statewide election. This year’s audit was expanded to 10% of the ballots cast.

Evnen said the manual audits are done to verify that the machines used to tabulate ballots functioned properly on Election Day and were not tampered with at any point following pre-election testing. Nebraska’s continued use of paper ballots allows for such post-election audits.

For the audit, a minimum of one precinct from every county was checked. The precincts were randomly selected in counties with more than one precinct. Additional precincts were included based on county population and also randomly selected. Three races were hand counted on each ballot — the race for governor, U.S. House of Representatives and a local county race.

In total, officials counted 48,292 ballots from 132 voting precincts. They found 11 cases in which there was a difference between the machine count and the hand count, which amounts to an error rate of 0.023%.

Evnen said five of the apparent differences between machine and human resulted from voters having placed light marks on the ballots. It’s unclear what the voters’ intent was in those cases.

For the second test, a statewide list of people who voted in the election was compared with the tabulated ballot count. This marks the first year that counties submitted those voter history lists to the state before the statewide election was certified, rather than 30 days afterward.

The voter history list showed that 682,745 people had voted statewide, while there were 682,716 ballots tabulated. The difference was 29, for a variance of 0.004%.

According to the Secretary of State’s Office, differences can occur for various reasons, such as if a ballot was missing the two required poll worker initials on the bottom, a mail-in ballot envelope was empty or only included one page of a two-page ballot, a voter took a ballot and left it blank or a poll worker forgot to have a voter sign in.

In addition to these post-election checks, Evnen said that every ballot tabulating machine in the state is tested three separate times before the election. The pre-election checks use test decks of ballots to confirm that the tabulators are counting and reporting results accurately.

Questions about election accuracy and integrity have increased since 2020, when former President Donald Trump claimed, without evidence, that the election was stolen from him. In response to concerns raised by some Nebraskans, Evnen put together a PowerPoint presentation in March titled: “Fake vs. Fact: Setting the Record Straight about Nebraska’s Elections.”

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Martha Stoddard keeps legislators honest from The World-Herald's Lincoln bureau, where she covers news from the State Capitol. Follow her on Twitter @StoddardOWH. Phone: 402-670-2402

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