All mail election is a success in Knox County

WAUSA — Knox County’s all-mail election process has really increased voter turn-out here.

Knox County is one of just 11 counties in the state that are no longer using polling places. Instead of going to the polls at election time, all Knox County registered voters now receive a ballot in the mail.

Knox County Clerk Joanne Fischer said 58.6 percent of Knox County’s 5,540 registered voters cast ballots in last week’s primary election.

Tuesday’s election marked the first time Knox County used the county-wide system, although smaller all-mail elections had been held in the county.

Statewide, only 40 percent of Nebraska’s registered voters turned out for the election.

Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen said that number was up because of an influx of early voting, which was encouraged this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Nebraskans did not allow this pandemic to stop them from exercising their right to vote,” Evnen said. “They had opportunities to vote early by mail or at the polls. They selected the option they thought was best for them.”

Knox County had the 10th highest voter turn-out in the state.

Cherry County had the highest voter turn-out in the state as nearly 71 percent of the registered voters there cast ballots in the election.

Dakota County had the lowest voter turn-out in the state as only 20 percent of registered voters made their opinions made.

Three other counties, Cass, Colfax and Buffalo counties also had very low voter turn-outs. The coronavirus pandemic has hit all four of those counties hard. State experts believe the virus may have kept voters away from the polls in those counties.

Prior to making the switch to an all-mail county, Fischer said she was encouraged at high voter turn-out in counties that were using the all-mail system.

Nebraska state law allows mailonly voting in qualifying counties with populations of fewer than 10,000 residents — intended to benefit sparsely-populated areas. Each county must receive approval from the Nebraska Secretary of State before making the switch to an all-mail system, however.

Fischer said she saw many benefits to the switch to mail-only voting. Knox County covers a large area, she said.

The system eliminates travel time for many voters that had to travel a distance to the polling sites. It also keeps weather from being a factor in the voter turn-out.

For the 2018 election cycle, Knox County operated mail-only balloting in three precincts: Lindy/ Santee, Niobrara Area and Verdigre Area. In addition, she used mail-only balloting for special elections in the Santee and Wausa school districts.

Fischer has received positive feedback from voters on the allmail system. “Many voters have expressed

“Many voters have expressed appreciation because they no longer have to apply for each ‘early voting’ ballot,” she said. “Many voters in the mail-only precincts said it was the first time they actually researched candidates. They did so because their specific ballot was right there in front of them so they knew exactly who they were eligible to vote for (in the election).”

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