Find your polling place at the Douglas County Election Commission website.
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Going to the polls won't be as easy this election year for Susan McDermott and other low-income disabled or elderly residents of Kay-Jay Tower in South Omaha.
Instead of voting downstairs in a polling place in their own building, an Omaha Housing Authority tower, they will have to find their way to a new site more than a mile away.
"That is a long way for somebody with no transportation," said McDermott, 52, who uses a walker and cannot stand for long periods.
The extra distance faced by Kay-Jay tenants is one example of the changes affecting Douglas County voters after Election Commissioner Dave Phipps' sweeping overhaul of voting districts. His new plan, which eliminates nearly half of the county's polling places, kicks in for the May 15 primary election.
With fewer voting sites, about half of Douglas County voters will have longer trips to the polls this year, according to a World-Herald analysis. The typical voter will travel just under six-tenths of a mile — up about two blocks from 2010.
But not everyone will have to go farther.
In fact, nearly one-third of voters are just as close — and some are closer than they used to be.
Phipps had to redraw the county's precinct boundaries because of redistricting. In doing so, he cut the number of polling places as authorized under a recent state law that allowed larger districts.
Phipps said his plan will save taxpayers about $115,000 per election in most years.
But community leaders, elected officials and voting rights groups have criticized Phipps for making the changes without consulting the public. They said the change would disenfranchise people like McDermott, who can't easily travel to more distant polling places.
While she votes in nearly every election, McDermott isn't sure whether she will make it to the polls this year. Her arthritis flares up in bad weather, making the journey too painful. Plus, she can't always afford the bus fare.
Phipps has apologized for not seeking public input before making the changes, and he has since taken some steps to make it easier for people to vote. He plans to send every voter an application for early voting ballots, which can be turned in by mail or at designated drop boxes.
McDermott is leery of voting by mail, saying the process "doesn't seem private." Some others in her building who were interviewed say it's an acceptable alternative, although they wish the tower still had its polling place.
The World-Herald analyzed distances to the polls for nearly all the 315,000 registered voters in Douglas County and calculated the changes from the last election.
Not surprisingly, fewer polling places mean longer distances for many voters.
The percentage of voters who are within a half-mile of their polling place, as the crow flies, will drop sharply. Before this year, nearly three out of five voters were that close. Now it's a little over two in five.
The remaining voters can expect a mile or more round trip, depending on the street layout. Those without reliable transportation might have to walk at least as much as the distance between the Century Link Center and Joslyn Art Museum.
Critics of the Phipps plan say any additional distance creates a barrier for low-income and elderly voters who may already have trouble getting to the polls.
"Even a quarter-mile, to individuals that don't have a car, is huge," said Willie Hamilton, a representative of the NAACP and the president of Black Men United.
Omaha City Council member Garry Gernandt, who represents South Omaha, said he'd like to see Phipps reopen polling places in the OHA towers before the November general election.
"This is a change for folks that have been used to getting on the elevator, going to the main floor, voting, getting back on the elevator and going back to their apartment," he said. "If I was in that situation, I would probably be upset."
Gernandt said he worries that some people will get fed up with the process and not vote.
Phipps said he would consider adding more polling places for the general election, but he said changes made between the primary and general elections would require the approval of Secretary of State John Gale.
Besides, he said, the Nebraska Legislature made it clear that larger voting districts are acceptable — even though that means voters have to go farther.
"There's certainly different points of view on this, and I'm just trying to follow what the law kind of guides me to do," Phipps said.
When he chose polling places, Phipps said, he took into account the legal requirements: The building must comply with the federal Americans With Disabilities Act, it must have adequate space and parking, and it should be easy to find.
With the new, larger precincts, Phipps was particularly concerned about parking for more vehicles.
"The No. 1 complaint we ever get is, 'There's not enough parking,' " he said.
He didn't take into consideration the percentage of voters in the area who are disabled or don't have access to a car. He said making precincts smaller only in poorer parts of town wouldn't be fair to voters elsewhere.
"A voter was a voter no matter what," he said.
As it turned out, the impact of Phipps' changes was less in north Omaha's Council District 2 than in most other parts of the city. Only 42 percent of those voters are farther from the polls, compared with 64 percent just to the south in Council District 3.
In addition, a larger share of District 2 residents remain within a half-mile of their polling place than in any other part of the city. Other low-income areas, however, have many voters who are farther away from the polls than those in District 2.
The NAACP's Hamilton said the Phipps plan places a burden on people who are least able to deal with the extra challenge. Among other things, some polling places are on the fringes of their voting district or even outside them, which increases the distance for many residents.
Parking may be the most pressing issue in west Omaha, but many north Omaha residents would rather have a central polling place with less parking, Hamilton said.
"If (Phipps) had met with the communities, they would have told him what was important to them, rather than (him) taking a one-size-take-all approach to the community," Hamilton said.
Hamilton and other community leaders are working on organizing free rides to the polls in the eastern parts of the city.
Others are looking at a lawsuit or other ways to reverse the changes.
"I think it's almost been a catalyst to bring the community together to effect change," Hamilton said. "And that's a good thing."
Not everyone is upset with Phipps.
Dixie Wagner's polling place moved from Calvary Lutheran Church at 2941 N. 80th St. to First United Methodist Church at 7020 Cass St. It's farther away from her house, but the drive shouldn't take any longer, she said. And she prefers taking major streets to winding through neighborhoods.
"I'm just going to zip down 72nd (Street)," Wagner said.
Back in South Omaha, McDermott doesn't understand why the polling place in her tower was closed.
Phipps said there was good reason for choosing the ICC Bowlatorium near 25th and Bancroft Streets over other options, even though the site is at the north end of a precinct that stretches more than a mile and a half.
The precinct previously contained four polling places: the bowling alley, Kay-Jay Tower, Highland Tower and Spring Lake Elementary School.
The latter three are more central, but parking was limited. The bowlatorium had 50 available parking spots.
"I don't think you're ever going to come up with a perfect system," Phipps said. "I don't know how I would create a system with no impediments. Do you knock on every door and hand them a ballot and wait for them to fill it out?"
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