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Polling precincts see low numbers due to coronavirus pandemic

Posted at 6:17 PM, May 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-12 19:17:20-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — With many people deciding to vote early and via mail, polling places saw some of its lowest numbers in years for the 2020 Nebraska primary.

“By far this is the slowest we’ve ever been,” said Gary Bussard, the inspector of the precinct at Omaha Burke High School. At the Burke location only nine voters came in during the first three hours the polls were open. Across town at Elkhorn South, the three precincts combined for 50 voters over its first four hours.

“We’ve been hearing out there that is is very quiet,” said Brian Kruse, the Douglas County Election Commissioner. “We think the voters of Douglas County decided to stay home, stay healthy and keep themselves and our poll workers healthy.”

“I wanted to do it in person and I live pretty close so I thought I would make the trip over,” said Brent Roberts, a first-time voter.

Despite the low in-person presence, the mail-in boxes had a steady line of cars come through to drop off ballots Tuesday. According to Kruse, the county’s already received more than 108,000 mail-in ballots and is predicting a 35-percent overall turnout for this election.

“This is going to be one of the biggest if not the biggest primary in our state and it is all because of the early voting,” Kruse said.

On top of seats up for grabs, voters also had the chance to voice their opinion on whether the city should issue $200 million in bonds to fund street maintenance.

“I was interested in the road updates Mayor Stothert was trying to put through,” Roberts said.

“I followed Mayor Stothert and she encouraged us to get out and vote for the streets so I wanted to support her in that,” said Bobbi Jo Cheek, a voter at the Elkhorn South precinct.

At the polling places voters kept social distances and hand sanitizer and masks were readily available.

“We have a whole protocol that says we don’t need to get within six feet of a voter,” Bussard said. “We have hand sanitzers and masks and will wipe everything down to make sure that everything is cleaned.”

Voters 3 News Now talked to said it was their civic duty to place their vote, whether in person, or through the mail.

“If you want to have a voice in this country, we still are a free country here and we get the opportunity to vote and it’s really important you take that action,” Cheek said.

“It will not be like this in a few years so what happens now will affect our future,” Roberts said.

The polling places close at 8 p.m. Tuesday. Voters can also drop off mail-in ballots at an election commission drop box until 8 p.m. Tuesday.