OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Across the country and in Nebraska, 2020 was a banner year for voter participation with turnout in the primary and general elections higher than average.
Part of that could be attributed to increased vote-by-mail with 78% of Nebraska voters opting for that method during the 2020 primary.
Before that election, every voter received an application card that Nebraskans could fill out and get sent a ballot. In Douglas, Lancaster and Dodge County voters could also check a box and go on a permanent vote by mail list.
"That was the first time that was ever done on a large scale and we had tens of thousands of people voting from home for the first time,” said John Cartier, Voting Rights Director at Civic Nebraska.
Now this year when you look at vote by mail data, Douglas County has over 80,000 approved requests. Lancaster County has over 38,000 and Dodge County has nearly 2,500. That’s nearly five times as many as the total amount of people that voted by mail in Dodge County last midterm in 2018.
But numbers for other counties tell a different story.
Sarpy County has just over 2,500 voters requesting ballots. That's a 68% decrease from 2018. Smaller counties like Washington and Cass county have a similar drop-off.
Those counties did not send out applications or create a rolling early voter list.
"They missed out on not only a really good opportunity to maintain better and cleaner voter rolls, but just as a customer service tool to their voters to know what their options are,” said Cartier.
To vote by mail in most counties, including Sarpy County, you need to go to the election commissioner's website, find the form, print it out and sign it, then use a computer or a stamp to get it back to the election office.
"So you have to physically print something out, write or affix your signature on it and then send it back,” said Cartier.
To avoid the printer issue, candidate for legislature Angie Lauritsen tells me she brings extra copies while canvassing.
Sarpy County Spokesperson Megan Stubenhofer-Barrett says residents can also fill out a blank sheet of paper with their signature, the date and what specific election they want to vote by mail in.