Hall County Election Office is getting a needed electrical upgrade.
The office at the county’s administration building needs more outlets to accommodate a new ballot counter, Election Commissioner Tracy Overstreet explained at Tuesday’s meeting of the Hall County Board of Commissioners.
“We are out of plug-ins in the election office,” Overstreet said. “This would add more plug-ins to the election office and also to our early voting area.”
She was notified last week that Hall County was being considered for a new ballot counter.
“In the last election, (the secretary of state’s office) bought new ballot counting equipment across the state, except Hall County, because Hall County had already purchased its own new ballot counting machine about four years prior,” Overstreet said. “So we were the only ones who didn’t get a new ballot counting machine.”
Hall County only has one machine, though. Two are needed, she said.
“We’re going through election planning on duplicity,” Overstreet said. “If something goes down on election night, you have something that can pick up the slack.”
A new ballot counter costs $110,000, and may be paid for completely by the state.
The machine requires a 220-volt outlet, though, and another is needed in the election office.
An upgrade would cost roughly $5,000, Overstreet said.
Commission Chair Pam Lancaster supported the effort.
“This is one of those ‘must haves,’ I’m thinking,” Lancaster said. “You have to be able to plug things in.”
Overstreet also asked that the office’s machines connect to an outside generator.
County Facilities Director Doone Humphrey said that can be easily done.
“We’re going to tap into the IT room upstairs, which already has a box that’s connected to an outside generator plug-in,” Humphrey said, “so, during election time, if the weather’s inclement or we think there’s going to be a power outage, the generator can be used to keep voting going.”
Overstreet also provided an update on the census and redistricting.
Basic census data will be released in mid-August.
A special session of the Nebraska Legislature starts Sept. 15.
Legislators will set the first lines that are required under statute: legislative district lines, board of regents and congressional lines.
Nebraska counties will receive those by Sept. 30.
Hall County then has until the end of October to draw new precinct lines.
“Those lines will then be distributed to the rest of the political subdivisions — county board, city councils, school boards — to set their lines by the end of December,” Overstreet said.
There will be at least two new precincts, she said.
One new polling site will be Resurrection Church.
“Out in northwest Grand Island we’ve had a lot of growth, so we’ll have an additional precinct there,” she said. “We’re also going to split up a dual precinct that’s been at Fonner Park.”
Hall County’s Geographic Information Systems office has completed a new districting program that is using legacy census data, Overstreet said.
“We’re doing some pre-work on our precinct lines because our precinct lines are based on voter registration numbers as opposed to population numbers,” she said.
The late redistricting may affect candidates planning to run for office in 2022, Overstreet said.
“They’ll know by the end of the year what precinct they’re in, but they’re probably going to have to come to our office to see a paper map,” she said, “because, after all the political subdivisions get their new lines drawn, we won’t have it in our system probably until the end of February.”
Candidates typically start filing Dec. 1, but that has been pushed back to Jan. 5.
The filing timeline will start later, but still ends at the same time: Feb. 15 for incumbents and March 1 for nonincumbents.
“Instead of having a couple of months to file,” Overstreet said, “they’re going to be down to six weeks to file.”