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Nebraska: Here's How to Make Sure Your Vote Counts in the 2020 Election

What you need to know, including key deadlines, registration details, and how to vote by mail.

Grace Han/Thrillist

Having lived through the better half of 2020, I think we can all agree that this country needs us. And the best way to make an impact is by voting. It's our civic duty, but also, a right we are afforded as Americans. To successfully do so, however, you've gotta actually register, make a plan for casting your ballot, and meet every last deadline correctly. 

Nebraska is a "no-excuse" state, which means you can snag an early voting absentee ballot without any special reason. So whether you just don't want to brave the Election Day lines or you're concerned about coronavirus, you can vote remote. Here's everything you need to know for a successful November 3.

What's the deadline to register to vote in Nebraska? 

There are three routes for voter registration in Nebraska: online, by mail, and in person. If you're planning to for the first -- and naturally, easiest -- route, you have until October 16. Mail-in registration forms also must be postmarked by that date, and in-person registration is open through October 23.

How to register to vote in Nebraska

Obviously, the first step is making sure you're eligible. Like everywhere else, you've gotta be a citizen of the United States and resident of the state in which you're voting, but there are a few other criteria to meet, as well. You must be at least 18 as of November 3. Two years must have passed since any completed sentence or parole for any felony conviction. The state also bars anyone found mentally incompetent or convicted of treason, unless your civil rights have been restored.

Now that that's out of the way, let's talk the actual registration process: 

  • Online: Just fill out an online application before that October 16 deadline and you're good. 
  • Mail: You can also fill out the application and mail it to your county elections office. Find yours here
  • In Person: Nebraska allows you to register to vote at the State Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Health and Human Services, and State Department of Education, too.

Can I vote early? When does early voting start in Nebraska?

Yes, Nebraska allows early voting. 

There are two ways to vote early in Nebraska: by mail-in absentee ballot or in person. Early voting runs from October 5 through November 2. Check out the Nebraska Secretary of State's early voting information page for more details.

Can I vote by mail? 

As mentioned above, yes. Nebraska does not require any special reason for requesting an absentee ballot, which you can use to vote by mail in advance of November 3. 

How to request an absentee ballot in Nebraska

Nebraska started accepting early voting absentee ballot requests back in July, so you can submit yours any time now -- in fact, you should probably get on it ASAP. The state will begin mailing ballots on September 28. Here's how to get yours: Fill out an application, complete the form (follow the instructions carefully), then drop it off in person, mail it, or email/fax your documents. Your application must be received by 6pm October 23. 

How to vote absentee by mail in Nebraska

You'll receive your ballot, instructions on how to cast your vote, and a return envelope in the mail. After you complete your ballot, you'll seal and sign the envelope and either drop it off yourself or mail it back to your county elections office.

Is there a way to track my mail-in ballot? How can I make sure it's counted?

You can track the status of your ballot and find additional voter information on the state's handy portal.

Beyond that, follow the instructions and meet the deadlines. Avoid tearing or otherwise damaging your absentee ballot materials so that it isn't thrown out on a technicality. 

How can I stay safe while voting in person?

While voting by mail is likely the safest way to participate in this election, there are ways you can reduce the risk of getting COVID-19 if you plan to vote in person at your local polling place. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention has issued safety recommendations for voters.

Here's a rundown of what the CDC recommends, per its election guidance page:

  • Wear a mask. 
  • Keep a distance of at least six feet from others at all times.
  • Wash your hands both before and after leaving your polling location.
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol frequently throughout your time inside the polling place, especially after you touch things like door hands, voting machines, and other surfaces that lots of other people touch.
  • If you cough or sneeze, cover them with a tissue or the inside of your elbow. Dispose of the tissues in a lined garbage can, then use that 60% alcohol hand sanitizer again. 
  • Don't try to disinfect the voting machine or equipment yourself because you may end up damaging them with cleaners and disinfectant products. This is where hand sanitizer comes in again. Use it right after you touch the voting equipment, and if you use it before you touch the equipment, make sure your hands have dried first.
  • Try to vote when your polling place isn't as busy. This might involve driving by and checking to see how long the line is.
  • Verify that you're registered to vote before you leave home and make sure you bring any documents you'll need to avoid complications that could result in spending more time inside the polling place.
  • Bring your own black ink pen for marking your ballot, or your own stylus (just check with a polling place worker before you use it). 
  • If possible, fill out a sample ballot at home that you can use to speed up casting your ballot at the polling location.

Additional Nebraska voting resources: 

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Megan Schaltegger is a staff writer at Thrillist.