Douglas County election officials violated a federal law in November when they didn't let dozens of people vote provisionally without showing voter identification numbers, a state-appointed official ruled Friday.
To make sure the mistake isn't repeated, the election commission has been ordered to remove voter ID numbers from instructional materials and to offer more training to poll workers and call-center operators.
County Election Commissioner Dave Phipps agreed with the findings and said his office has already made changes.
Nebraskans for Civic Reform filed a complaint with the secretary of state after its election observers saw dozens of people leaving polling places confused and unable to vote.
Poll workers had told them they needed a voter ID number to vote provisionally. Some potential voters also couldn't get through to the election office to learn their ID numbers, said the group's Adam Morfeld in an affidavit.
Rob Kinsey, a Lincoln attorney, was appointed by Secretary of State John Gale to oversee a January hearing that examined whether Douglas County poll workers violated the Help America Vote Act of 2002 in the Nov. 6 election.
Neither federal nor state election laws require voters to give voter ID numbers to vote provisionally, Kinsey noted in his seven-page report.
The problems on Election Day capped a controversial year for Phipps, who was sharply criticized by groups in north Omaha and South Omaha for closing dozens of polling places before the May primary.
Some Democrats accused Phipps, a Republican, of trying to suppress voter turnout. Phipps agreed to reopen some of the polling places for the general election.
Among the reactions to the Phipps controversies is Legislative Bill 235, which would require Nebraska's largest counties to form citizen advisory committees to help oversee voter registrations and elections. The bill would apply to election commissioners in Douglas, Sarpy and Lancaster Counties.
In his report, Kinsey said poll workers and call center operators should get additional instruction so they know not to request ID numbers from voters before giving them provisional ballots. He also recommended that Phipps remove all references to ID numbers on materials given to poll workers.
Phipps said his office corrected mistakes as soon as they learned of them.
“We agreed that there was confusion among some poll workers in handling provisional voting during the election,” he said in a statement released Friday.
“My office will continue to work to improve our poll worker procedures to help ensure the voting process is conducted as efficiently and correctly as possible. It continues to be our goal that each voter is treated fairly and that his or her vote will be counted on Election Day.”
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