Registering to vote in Nebraska is a simple process. Registration applications can be obtained from a county election office and from the secretary of state’s website.
In addition, there are a number of third parties that make registration forms available on their websites. A word of caution about these websites: Some will ask for information that is not required under Nebraska law, such as phone numbers and email addresses (which are optional in Nebraska) and full Social Security numbers. By providing this extra information to a third party, it may be used for purposes other than voter registration. To prevent identity theft, you should not provide your full Social Security number to such third parties.
Pursuant to the National Voter Registration Act passed in 1993, almost all states are required to provide registration opportunities when applying or renewing a driver’s license or applying for public assistance services. The act required all states to allow registration by mail and accept a national voter registration form. The national form is developed by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
When applying at a Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicle office, the examiner will ask if you wish to register to vote. If the response is yes, a registration form is generated with your name, address and birth date preprinted on the form. The applicant will need to designate a party affiliation (or nonpartisan). At public assistance offices, if the voter indicates they wish to register, they are provided with a registration application and may either leave it with the office personnel or take it with them and deliver it to a county election office at a later time.
One might also encounter people out in public encouraging voter registration. Sometimes they are at a table or booth, or on the sidewalk or going door to door. This can happen through one of two methods.
The first involves deputy registrars. There are certain rules in Nebraska law regarding deputy registrars, such as the registration must be conducted in teams of at least two people of different political parties. They are required to be trained by county election offices in the proper method to complete the form and will deliver the completed applications to the local office within 24 hours.
The other method is for individuals to simply pass out voter registration applications. This method is not regulated, and the person distributing the forms should not provide advice on completing the application. It is the applicant’s choice whether to take the application with them, mail it themselves or give it to the person distributing the applications. Another note of caution: If an applicant gives the completed application to the distributor to deliver to the county office, the applicant runs the risk of the distributor not delivering the application in a timely manner. A group using this method in 2008 failed to deliver a handful of completed applications by the registration deadline.
The information required in Nebraska is very basic. In addition to name, address, birth date and party affiliation, the applicant’s driver’s license number and/or last four digits of their Social Security number is required. There are also two basic questions at the top of the form as required by the Help America Vote Act, asking if the applicant is a U.S. citizen and if the applicant is of age to register. Some optional data or information that may be applicable are also on the form, including email address and phone number (which allows for quicker communication than mail) and previous registration address or previous name. At the bottom of the form is an oath that the applicant signs, under penalty of election falsification (a Class V felony), that the information on the form is true and correct.
There is also some special information that assists local officials, particularly in rural areas, to properly register the individual. This information includes location of the residence for those areas that may have not assigned 911 addressing: school district information and section, township and range information. In rural areas, this information allows the local election office to properly place the registrant in appropriate political subdivision districts.
Once an application is received by the local election office, the registrant will receive an acknowledgement notice within seven to 10 days. This notice will tell the voter if the application is incomplete and what information is necessary to complete the application; or if complete, that the voter is registered and provides information on polling location and the offices that the voter is eligible to vote on.
Once registered, it is very easy to check your voter registration by going to the secretary of state’s Voter Information Center. By filling in your first and last name, county (required) and other simple information, a voter can find their current registration information as well as their polling site and offices to be elected for their address. For those without Internet access, the information can be obtained by calling the local election office or the Secretary of State’s Office at (402) 471-2555 or (888) 727-0007 (toll free).
In 2005, as required by and using Help America Vote Act funds, a centralized state voter registration database was created. This database connects all 93 counties and allows efficient compliance with the list maintenance provisions found in the National Voter Registration Act. Some of the features of this database include allowing checks of a driver’s license number and the last four digits of a Social Security number through the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles, comparisons with the state Office of Vital Records for death records on a weekly basis and monthly comparisons with the state’s criminal justice database for felons. The database also allows a Nebraska county to pull the record from a different county when a voter moves and reregisters in a new county. While virtually eliminating duplicates, it also makes it possible for a voter’s voting history to move with them.
In addition, the Secretary of State’s Office compares the database with the U.S. Postal Service’s National Change of Address service approximately every six months. From this comparison, we receive matches with registered voters in Nebraska. This information is used to generate a postage-paid confirmation card that asks the voter if the information is correct, incorrect or if the voter has moved out of the county. Confirmation cards are used in situations where election officials have received information from a third-party source rather than directly from the voter. If updated information is received directly from the voter, the voter’s record is revised immediately. Local officials will often use other information, such as local obituaries (for deaths) or local utility records (for address changes).
If a voter fails to return a confirmation card, they are placed in National Voter Registration Act removal status. They are still a registered voter but will be required to use a provisional ballot when voting. This ballot will update their address information, and checks are done to make sure the voter has not voted in more than one location prior to the vote being counted. The provisional ballot will take additional time for the voter at the polling site, so it is much easier to update voter information prior to Election Day.
The Secretary of State’s Office is understandably very protective of the voter registration database. In addition to the active database, we have a separate disaster recovery site and periodically contract with outside computer security experts to assess or audit the security surrounding the database. While the specifications for this database were developed within the Secretary of State’s Office, the vendor who designed the database is Election Systems & Software, an Omaha company that is the largest vote tabulation company in the United States.
With this database, some cross-state matching also was possible. In 2005, Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa and Kansas agreed to compare voter lists in an attempt to remove duplicates between these states. Duplicates between states can occur when the registrant does not provide their previous registration address when registering in a new state. Since 2005, this program has expanded to 14 states.