Election: Steady day-of turnout, slight uptick in provisional ballots

At mid-day on Election Day 2020, Civic Nebraska observers and hotline callers indicate steady participation at precincts around Omaha, Lincoln, and Greater Nebraska.

At least 510,076 early votes have been cast, officials said Tuesday morning. That represents nearly two-thirds of all votes cast in 2016’s general election. Combined with day-of, in-person voting, Nebraska voters could be on pace for record-setting participation in 2020.

Voters at a central Lincoln polling place gather to vote early Tuesday. (Kylie Graham)

Confronted with the continued spread of COVID-19, a record number of Nebraskans requested early vote-at-home ballots for today’s general election. Voters have until 8 pm CDT today to deposit them in a county election office drop box. Civic Nebraska has a map of all drop boxes in the state.

“This election year has been like no other. But once again, Nebraskans are stepping up amid disruption and difficulty to make their voices heard,” said John Cartier, Civic Nebraska’s director of voting rights. “That is good for democracy, and it’s great for our state.”

Early calls to Civic Nebraska’s Election Protection Line, 402.890.5291, involved the use of provisional ballots. They included voters who had requested early vote-at-home ballots but subsequently decided they wished to vote in person on Election Day. Also, in some instances, voters presented themselves at their polling places after requesting but failing to receive an early vote-at-home ballot in time for Election Day. And finally, a number of voters who have changed addresses since registering to vote have reported to their old polling places.

In all of those instances, voters were given the option to complete a provisional ballot, which can take up to two weeks for officials to verify and count.

Cartier said the slight uptick in requests for provisional ballots is not concerning, given the massive number of early vote-at-home ballots requested this year.

Civic Nebraska’s volunteer election protection observers also have reported a small number of voters bringing their early vote-at-home ballots to their polling places. Cartier emphasized that those ballots must be returned to an official election drop box by the time the polls close at 8 pm CST.


> A lack of adequate signage at a handful of polling places in Lincoln and Omaha, which some observers said delayed voters from finding the appropriate entrance;

> Brief difficulty with special-needs access at a north-central Lincoln polling site, which was eventually corrected; and

Poll workers and voters alike took extra precautions amid the ongoing pandemic. (Kylie Graham)

> Some confusion surrounding ballot drop boxes in Lancaster County (with the exception of the main election office) being closed the day before the election due to a statute stating that mail-in ballots cannot be submitted at polling locations. Some of the drop box locations are also polling locations on Election Day.

Other than those instances, the first several hours of Election Day 2020 appeared to be proceeding smoothly and safely, Cartier said.

Nebraska’s previous high-water mark for early ballots in a general election was about 235,000 in 2016. The overall participation record for a Nebraska general election is 860,573, in that same year.

This is the fifth election cycle for Civic Nebraska’s Election Protection Program observation program. Civic Nebraska will release a full report from today’s general election after compiling all information from precincts and the hotline.

Nebraskans still needing to know where to vote can check, or can call or text the Civic Nebraska hotline.