Election Pilot Project Aims to Match Voters to Their Precincts
By Scott Stewart
The Daily Record
Sarpy County will pilot a new system designed to use modern geographic information technology to ensure voters receive the correct ballot for districts and issued based on where they live.
Nebraska Secretary of State Robert Evnen announced the pilot project Wednesday, starting with testing in Sarpy County with the goal of statewide implementation.
The project will link geographical information systems that contain precise mapping data about election districts with the state’s voter registration systems.
“Integrated GIS systems will work to ensure voters are given the correct ballot for the precinct in which they live,” Evnen said in a news release. “This is especially important in local elections such as county commissioner, NRD districts and school boards.”
Sarpy County Election Commissioner Michelle Andahl said the system, once testing is complete, would avoid the manual entry of precinct assignments for new subdivisions. It would also be an assistance when election maps are redrawn – which is likely following the 2020 Census and also happens when cities annex subdivisions – ward lines are redrawn or similar changes occur.
Election boundaries can be confusing, with maps for city, school, county, community college, natural
resource district and many other government agencies often not overlapping. There’s no guarantee your precinct will be the same as your neighbor’s.
“The other side of the street can be totally different,” Andahl said.
Andahl said that Sarpy County is a good location to conduct the tests because the county has a geographic information systems department and is experiencing a lot of growth, creating situations where the program can be tested.
“It’s a great time for our county to be involved in this,” Andahl said.
Once the program is implemented, Andahl said her staff would still double-check that information is correctly entered into the database, but it will save time and reduce the chance for errors.
Evnen said the identification of voting districts based on GIS data would help Nebraska prepare for redistricting following the 2020 Census. He said the pilot project is part of a broader effort to modernize election processes.
“This is one of many initiatives under my administration that will continue to assure that Nebraska’s elections are accurate and secure,” Evnen said.
The effort is being conducted through the National States Geographical Information Council’s Geo-Enabled Elections Project. Nebraska was one of five states selected for the pilot project.
Wayne Bena, deputy secretary of state for elections and a former Sarpy County election commissioner, will oversee a team charged with testing the GIS integration. Omaha-based Election Systems and Software is the vendor working on the project.