The Nebraska Democratic Party, elected Democrats and candidates on Monday called on Gov. Pete Ricketts and Secretary of State Bob Evnen to move entirely to vote-by-mail ballots for the May 12 Primary Election in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
The state has ordered counties to send vote-by-mail applications to all registered voters, but Ricketts has insisted that polling places will be open on election day.
“This is a public health crisis. Lives are at stake,” said NDP Chair Jane Kleeb. “Nebraskans deserve to exercise their right to vote without risking their lives or the poll workers. A commonsense solution for a commonsense state — we need to conduct an all vote-by-mail primary.”
The NDP is sending vote-by-mail applications to voters in addition to launching an online portal for Nebraskans to request a vote-by-mail application. See the online request form here. The NDP also launched a petition that more than 2,300 Nebraskans have signed. See the online petition here.
If Gov. Ricketts believes it is not in his purview to call for an all vote-by-mail primary election, the NDP suggests the following:
1) All postage for vote-by-mail applications and ballots is paid for by the state of Nebraska to make it easier for people — particularly those who cannot get to a post office to buy stamps — to participate in the election.
2) Allow for curbside and drive-through voting rather than open polling locations to limit interactions between voters and poll workers.
3) Extend the window for submission of vote-by-mail applications to May 5 instead of May 1.
So far, there have been some 337,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and nearly 9,700 deaths in the United States. Doctors in Grand Island are calling for Gov. Ricketts to issue a Stay At Home order given the spike in new cases.
Quotes from Democratic candidates and elected officials regarding the call for an all vote-by-mail primary:
Kate Bolz, state senator and congressional candidate, CD1: “An all vote-by-mail election can and should be conducted in a safe and fair manner, with appropriate help and support made available to individuals with disabilities and people who speak English as a Second Language. Vote-by-mail can and should be an inclusive and safe way to conduct elections this year in these extraordinary conditions.”
Barbara “Babs” Ramsey, congressional candidate CD1: “This isn’t simply about public safety in the midst of a global pandemic, it’s about protecting our elections and maximizing voter participation.”
Ann Ashford, congressional candidate, CD2: “Our country and our state of Nebraska have always gotten through the bad times by coming together. And in this instance, the only way we have of coming together is to maintain social distancing. We must all become health heroes and that means our activities must be done remotely whenever possible. Voting by mail is the only solution. We cannot put ourselves, our poll workers, nor other Nebraskans at risk by having open polling places.”
Kara Eastman, congressional candidate, CD2: “On Saturday my team made calls to over 4,000 voters, many over the age of 55. The universal feeling is that we need to stay safe and stay at home. We need universal vote-by-mail.”
Gladys Harrison, congressional candidate, CD2: “Due to the importance of keeping all Nebraskans safe during the COVID-19 Pandemic, having an all vote-by-mail primary would be the safest and fairest way to proceed with the election.”
Chris Janicek, U.S. Senate candidate: “It appears Gov. Ricketts is resisting protecting the people of Nebraska with an all vote-by-mail primary. Health, safety and protecting our vote must be his number one priority at this time. Our vote is our voice, integrity matters.”
Dennis Macek, U.S. Senate candidate: “This has to be an all-partisan effort. Nebraska Republicans in particular need to ensure that everyone has a vote-by-mail ballot.”
Dr. Dan Wik, U.S. Senate candidate: ”I call on Gov. Ricketts to ensure that all Nebraskans have a safe way to vote. We need to go to an all vote-by-mail primary.”
Angie Philips, U.S. Senate candidate: “Gov. Ricketts should protect Nebraskans by instituting a stay at home order and conducting an all vote-by-mail primary. While I understand the disappointment of not being able to go to the polls in person, the safety of Nebraskan’s and preventing the spread of COVID-19 must be our top priority. I am thankful we have this option and this ability in Nebraska so we can all vote safely.”
Alisha Shelton, U.S. Senate candidate: “At a time when Nebraskans are focused on surviving COVID-19 and protecting their families, the last thing we should be worried about is COVID-19 exposure at a polling site. Allow us to equally express our right to vote without risking our lives, especially if one of us catches the virus and cannot return the vote-by-mail application.”
Andrew Stock, U.S. Senate Candidate: “We all understand why Republican politicians are scared of mass voter participation, but our leaders need to stop playing political games during a pandemic. All vote-by-mail is the only safe choice.”
Larry Bradley, director and treasurer, Papio-Missouri River NRD, District 3: “As a citizen with two degrees in biology, the husband of a physician on the front lines of the Coronavirus health crisis, and a U.S. Army veteran in the medical field, I implore the officials of the state of Nebraska to please have a complete vote-by-mail election for the primary.”
Keegan Korf, candidate for the Omaha Public Schools Board of Education, Subdistrict 7: “This pandemic has disrupted our daily lives in unimaginable ways. We must shift and innovate how we handle this year’s primary election so as to not disrupt our democracy. A mandated vote-by-mail election will ensure that the voices of Nebraskans are heard.”
Gerald “Mike” Kuhn, candidate for Metro Community College Board of Governors, District 3: “The Nebraska “Good Life” is a privilege afforded to all Nebraskans and heavily encompasses health and safety for all. Due to the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, an all vote-by-mail election for the 2020 primary is a simple and logical solution to keep the community safe.”
Terrell McKinney, legislative candidate, LD11: “District 11 will be hit the hardest by this pandemic it’s imperative that voters in my district are protected, the governor needs to step up order an all vote-by-mail election for the primary.”
Preston Love Jr. NDP second associate chair: “We need to remove the very real danger of having polling places open — which would subject voters and poll workers to possible exposure. Voters should be able to stay home, as they have been asked to do and vote as they have a right to do.”
Dave Pantos, incumbent candidate, Metropolitan Community College Board, District 3: “Now more than ever we need to increase voter participation while maximizing voter safety. If Metro can educate remotely, we can all vote remotely. Let’s implement all vote-by-mail.”
Michael Young, Metropolitan Community College Board, District 2, and candidate for Douglas County Commissioner, District 5: “During these trying and unprecedented times, we need to keep our democracy and safety at the forefront of our decisions. The need for all Nebraska elections to move to a 100 percent. VBM initiative is key to keep voters engaged who would otherwise have transportation, health and safety concerns. I wholeheartedly support and urge Gov. Ricketts to do so.”