Election officials prepare for Omaha Primary while ensuring safety at the polls

Published: Apr. 5, 2021 at 4:49 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Thousands of votes have already been cast in Omaha’s City Primary Election.

Before every election, Douglas County checks its ballot counting equipment. Today, they ran a test deck of the ballots for tomorrow’s city primary election.

As the tests are being conducted, voters are making their way to the election commissioners’ office to cast their ballots in the primary. There’s steady traffic pulling up to the dropbox and it seems like voters are paying attention to the local races.

“Well, I think they should be as important as national election actually,” a voter said.

Douglas County officials say 58,000 people voted in the last Omaha primary elections, this year, about 50,000 early ballots have already been returned for the upcoming primary.

Officials say it’s too late to put your early ballot in the mail, to get your ballots in on time, you will have to use the drop boxes.

“To our office here before 8 p.m. tomorrow night, please do not put them in the U.S. mail. Postmarks do not count, they have to be in our possession. We had 88% of the voters’ vote by mail last May, 65% in the presidential general and I’m looking for about the same this election. Honestly, two-thirds by mail, one-third at the polling place,” said Brian Kruse, Douglas County Election Commission.

Election Commissioner Kruse says while many people are voting by mail, the county will be ready for in-person voting. He also says the county elections and mail-in voting is secured and while there are others who don’t believe that, he wants to ensure voters that proper procedures are in place.

“Here in our office you have to request a ballot, we don’t automatically mail ballots. We have two people of different parties empty the drop boxes, we have cameras on our drop boxes. This facility is obviously very secure, we have cameras everywhere,” said Kruse.

Douglas County officials realize that many people have been vaccinated but they ask to please wear a mask when you come to the polls to vote.

The polls open for the Omaha Primary Election tomorrow at 8 a.m. The top two candidates will advance to the general election on May 11.

Officials say all of the 174 polling sites will be safe for those working the polls and for the voters.

“Even if you’ve had your vaccine, please please wear a mask to the polling place tomorrow or accept one of ours to protect ur fellow poll workers and your voters,” said Kruse.

Mail-in voting has reduced the number of people who vote in person but people will still make their way to the polls. Election Commissioner Kruse says it’s important to keep neighborhood polling places open and safe, he also said that his staff has been vaccinated.

“We had to do a kind of an on-call thing where if there were vaccines left over at the end of the day, they would notify me and our staff would go. But we are extremely grateful to Dr. Pour for doing that for us. I will say 100% of my full-time staff has been vaccinated and about 50% of the remaining staff,” said Kruse.

He says COVID-19 precautions at the polling places will be the same as in the presidential election, hand sanitizer, social distancing, and mask wearing.

“In November, we had almost a hundred thousand voters show up at their polling place in November and you know there was no transmission of the disease at a polling place that we were aware of,” said Kruse.

Douglas County officials expect two-thirds of the votes in the primary to come from mail-in ballots.

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