Voters will be able to comment Wednesday on a plan to reopen polling places, when Douglas County Election Commissioner Dave Phipps makes public a proposal to reopen 27 voting sites.
Phipps took to live television Monday night to explain his decision to close nearly a third of the county's polling places. On CTI Channel 22 and in front of a live audience, Phipps said his objective was to save money — $115,000 per election, or 9 percent of his annual budget.
But he apologized for not seeking public input before he announced the plan.
“That was where I made my mistake,” he said.
Many audience members told Phipps there were problems with poll workers who didn't know election laws. Phipps said he is working to improve training before the November general election.
State Sen. Brenda Council also said Phipps should make it clear that he made the decision to close the polling places. Though a new state law allowed him to do so, it did not require the closures.
Other audience members, including north Omaha resident Chester French, said the closings appeared to be part of a national pattern of “voter suppression.” French cited what he said were other moves by Republicans nationally, such as a push to require voters to show identification.
Phipps, who was appointed by Republican Gov. Dave Heineman, said he understood how it could appear that way, but his only goal was to save money.
Phipps' tentative plan includes 207 voting sites, an approximately 20 percent reduction from 2010 levels.
Voters will be able to see the plan at the election commission website or at public libraries, Phipps said.
He also plans to make voter feedback on the plan public. And in response to complaints he plans to redesign voter information cards.The Douglas County Democratic Party passed a resolution during its local convention earlier this month calling for Phipps' removal. In response, Phipps said he plans to finish out his appointed term, which expires at the end of 2015.
This report contains material from the Associated Press.
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