Douglas County voters will soon learn where they'll vote in the November general election.
Secretary of State John Gale has approved a plan by Douglas County Election Commissioner Dave Phipps to open 28 new polling places after months of confusion and protests over voting sites.
“It is my opinion that Commissioner Phipps and his staff have submitted a commendable and thoughtful proposal,” Gale said in a statement Tuesday.
Voters can find information about the new polling places at Omaha.com.
Phipps plans to send every voter a card with polling place information in September.
His critics said they appreciated his compromise, though they would have liked to have seen more polling places reopened.
Sergio Sosa, president of Allied Latino Organizations and a member of Phipps' informal advisory committee, said he appreciated the election commissioner's willingness to tell others about the planning process.
“Of course we didn't get 100 percent of the polling places open, but the compromise helped us to learn about each other,” Sosa said.
Phipps' new plan means there will be 207 polling places in November.
Adam Morfeld, executive director of Nebraskans for Civic Reform, said he wanted polling places restored to 2010 levels, or 265 polling places.
“Elections should be as accessible to the public as possible,” he said.
The saga began in April, when Phipps announced his plan to close nearly one-third of the polling places in an effort to save money.
The proposal sparked outcry from voting rights groups and others who said the closings would disenfranchise poor and elderly voters, making it harder for them to get to their new polling places.
Gale, too, criticized Phipps, saying he closed too many polling places too quickly.
Phipps apologized and acknowledged that he should have sought community reaction before he closed so many voting sites. But it was too late to make changes before the May primary.
Gov. Dave Heineman, who appointed Phipps, eventually stepped in, saying Gale would work with the election commissioner to reopen some polling places before November.
The secretary of state must approve any changes to polling places between the primary and general elections.
Phipps, a Republican, also solicited advice from community leaders. The initial plan included 27 new polling places, spread throughout the city of Omaha.
After seeking community feedback, Phipps added one more polling place at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in South Omaha at the request of Democrats, then sent the plan to Gale for approval.
Phipps also addressed other concerns, mostly from eastern Omaha, about accessibility and other problems with specific polling places.
The final map includes six Omaha Housing Authority sites as polling places.
In the primary, only two OHA facilities were polling sites. Many elderly and disabled voters who live in OHA towers complained of confusion when voting at new locations that were farther away.
Gale said the changes decrease the average number of registered voters per precinct from 1,712 to 1,462.
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