By Emily Nitcher
Omaha World Herald
LINCOLN — When Douglas County Election Commissioner Brian Kruse tells election officials from other states how votes are counted in Nebraska’s largest county, the responses vary.
“Oh, that’s painful,” is one response.
“How long did you work?” is another.
“We like to say, ‘Well, 26 hours, but we loved every minute of it,’” Kruse told members of the Nebraska Legislature’s Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee during a hearing Thursday.
In Douglas County, all of the ballots are brought to a central location and tallied. Kruse compared that with Birmingham, Alabama, where votes on election night are tallied at the precincts and results are reported in about four hours.
“There is no jurisdiction in the United States that is even close to the size of Douglas County that does central count,” Kruse said. “It’s all precinct-level count.”
Election technology or lack thereof came up during a discussion on Legislative Resolution 182, which is intended to study the extent of voter fraud in Nebraska and possible ways of finding and combating it.
There are still staunch disagreements when it comes to voter identification or requiring voters to show ID before casting their ballots, and even disagreements on whether Nebraskans are concerned about voter fraud.
Preston Love Jr., a north Omaha political organizer and director of Black Votes Matter, said during the hearing that the idea of voter fraud is used “to scare the people with the boogeyman.”
Minds weren’t swayed when the topic came up Thursday, but there did appear to be somewhat of a consensus: the state’s election technology needs to be upgraded.
State Sen. John Murante of Gretna said that despite the state’s major budget shortfall, it needs to invest in updating its election technology.
Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha said he’s in agreement with Murante.
“There is a time that we as a state have to work with local commissioners to update the technology,” Wayne said. “We are extremely behind.”
Previous voter ID proposals have failed. Last year, a proposed constitutional amendment introduced by Murante failed in the face of a filibuster.
Murante, chairman of the committee, said Thursday that he has two goals: Ensure that everyone who receives a ballot on Election Day is legally entitled to vote and ensure that no person who is legally entitled to vote is turned away from a polling place.