GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — One week from now Nebraskans will go to the polls and results for some races may not be known on election night.
The machine Hall County used to county ballots can process 300 a minute but any with a name written in are counted and sorted into a different tray.
“Anything that goes into the middle tray is fully counted but has a write-in on it so the machine is pulling it so we do a manual audit or manual review,” said Hall County Election Commissioner Tracy Overstreet.
Manual review means a Republican, a Democrat, and the election commissioner must look at each ballot, agree whose name is on, and see if it matches the name of an official write-in candidate. And then they hand count results.
It's a time-consuming process that will likely slow results.
“People want results as soon as possible, we'll get them results as soon as possible, but I'm not expecting it election night because of the write-ins we have,” Overstreet said.
Grand Island Public Schools, Centura and Doniphan-Trumbull school board races all have write-ins. The results released election night will indicate how many total write-in votes there are, but what name is written in likely won't be known for another day.
“We've got staff coming in on election day to look at that and will try to have some information available but I'm not expecting conclusive results on races with write-ins on election night,” Overstreet said.
Under Nebraska law, only write-in candidates who file an affidavit are considered. Voters must include the last name of the candidate and while they are encouraged to spell the name correctly, Overstreet said Anderson and Andersen would both be counted but Smith would not count for Johnson.
Hall County will not count any ballots until election day. Those cast during early voting will be the first run through the machine with results released a few minutes after the polls close. Next will come ballots cast during the day.
Any disputed ballots require officials of multiple parties to agree.
“They will go back and forth and double check and both have to sign off,” Overstreet said.
From multiple layers of cybersecurity to paper ballots that can't be hacked – Overstreet said security extends to machines that cannot connect to the internet and safeguards ensuring ballots are never left with members of just one party.
“Lots of checks and balances,” she said.
Overstreet said while she would like to have results for all races counted by election night, she said accuracy is paramount and that means any races with write-in candidates will likely take another day to complete.