County Election Commissioner Denies Allegations Of Glitches

By: Jacki Ochoa Email
By: Jacki Ochoa Email

For the most part, the election ran smoothly, though some problems at the polls have been confirmed in Nebraska's largest county. Some other complaints could be related to notices mailed to voters informing them that their polling place had changed, but were ignored.

Before the Douglas County Election Commissioner’s Office near 115th and Dodge in Omaha closed Wednesday, workers were still counting ballots from Tuesday's election, 215,733 in all, including early voting.

Election Commissioner Dave Phipps said with this big of an operation, it's never a surprise to have some hiccups. A stress-free, trouble-free Election Day may be unheard of, but some believe Election Day was a problem in Douglas County. They characterize it as widespread.

"Yesterday was total chaos from one polling place to another,” said Willie Hamilton of the NAACP/Black Men United.

"Most of them had a hard time getting through to the election commission to find their proper precinct,” said Adam Morfeld with Nebraskans For Civic Reform.

“There was a couple, a married couple, live in the same house, one went to the Urban League and the other had to go the Butler Y,” said Hamilton.

A group of community leaders believe these problems can be chalked up to the loss of about 30 percent of polling places. Phipps said that just isn't the case.

“Yeah, I think that is completely ridiculous. I mean I've been doing this job for nine years now. I've seen three presidential elections. There's always people that don't know where they are supposed to go. There's always people who aren't sure how to vote their ballot, who always have problems. That requires a lot of moving parts that yeah, you definitely don't see unless you're behind the scenes with it."

Phipps believes the day went smoothly, in part because of the 2,000 workers at both the Election Commissioner’s Office and spread out among the polling places. Half were volunteers, half were drafted, much like the call to be a juror.

“Once they get over the initial resistance, the idea of I don't want to work, then frankly they take their job very seriously,” said Phipps. A few dozen people signed up to be volunteers at polling places on Tuesday. They will be needed as the county's next election is fast approaching this spring.

One other issue that came up Tuesday was one particular precinct where nine voters discovered they were given the wrong ballot. In Douglas County, there were 330 different versions of ballots that had to be sorted out at the commissioner’s office and then delivered to the polling booths. Phipps said that's more than Sarpy and Lancaster counties combined.

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