Voting for Box Butte County has been an election like no other and Election Day is yet to come.
Election Day is this coming Tuesday, May 12 and voting will only be conducted at the Box Butte County Courthouse. Any and all mail-in ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on Election Night, Tuesday, May 12.
“We will check the drop box at 7 p.m. and we will also check the post offices at 7 p.m.,” said Box Butte County Clerk/Election Commissioner Judy Messersmith. “We have checked the post offices since back in the days of hand counting.”
However the drop box is something new this year that was added in hopes of getting a better voter response since Election Day and the election process have had to be done different due to the effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic.
As of the morning of Wednesday, May 6th the Election Office of Box Butte County had already received 2,285 ballots.
“Can't believe the huge number of ballot requests we had for a Primary. Voters really like having a ballot sent to them through the mail,” Messersmith said.
“This election is like no other. With renovations taking place in the courthouse, all counties received new counting and reporting equipment to learn, and then COVID-19 hit.”
To put those numbers into perspective, there were 1,618 ballots cast during the last election in 2018. In 2016 there were 2,563 ballots counted.
“We always have less during a primary election but this year is different,” Messersmith said.
“The surrounding counties that are all mail in already have a bigger percentage of voters. People are more comfortable when they can mail it in, it’s more convenient.”
The date to apply for an early voter application has come and gone, however Nebraska State officials are allowing people to return signed forms to the Box Butte County election drop box, located behind the courthouse in the Sheriff/Police parking lot.
Traditionally there are voting poles open outside of the courthouse in both Alliance and Hemingford. Due to Covid-19 precautions if the voter would like to vote in person on Election Day they must go to the County Courthouse on May 12 with all precincts voting at that location from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Safety guidelines will be in place for the poll workers and voters.
“Our goal is to keep everyone safe,” Messersmith said. “We are prepared. Ballots have been counted and secured, poll books are ready, we have arranged for poll workers and are providing training.”
“The huge difference for this election is having all precincts voting at the courthouse, but I don't expect many voters in person that day due to the requests we have had for ballots to be sent out. We will be providing disposal masks for anyone that desires to use one and disposal ink pens for marking ballots to those voters that choose to vote in person.”
“I’m not expecting a huge turnout but we'll have Election Day and it'll run as smooth as before. It'll just be a little different as is everything else in the United States.”
“It has been a long election season, but Gwen Taylor, Cassie Palmer, Raquel Oligmueller and Marie Burke are just the greatest office staff anyone could hope for!” Messersmith said.
This election is just as important as any other but there are two hot topics on the ballots. Hemingford School District residents have the opportunity to vote for or against the school bond and Alliance residents have the opportunity to vote for or against Proposition No. 1 - additional half-cent sales tax. This is no doubt part of the reason for the high ballot numbers.
“People can rest assured that whether they are voting for or against, there are going to be more people voting for the Hemingford School issue than ever before,” Messersmith said.
“We have sent out more ballots this year for Hemingford residents than how many voters showed up at the last polling place in Hemingford.”
Messersmith added, “People in the Hemingford area are certainly taking their voter responsibility seriously, whichever way it goes.”