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Bill Raynovich stood in a line of early voters Tuesday that extended outside the doors of the Douglas County Election Commissioner's Office and weaved onto the sidewalk.
As Raynovich, 65, waited in line, several people left early ballots in a drop-off box outside the building near 114th Street and West Dodge Road.
It was Raynovich's first time as an early voter. An associate professor at Creighton University, he was shocked at the number of people he saw.
“I couldn't believe it when I saw all the people here,” Raynovich said. “I'm really charged up about it, though. This is a very important election.”
Raynovich said he voted early to make sure that he got his ballot in and that nothing could go wrong in the process.
“I think this election is almost a 50-50 split,” he said. “Every vote counts.”
Nebraska's three largest counties — Douglas, Sarpy and Lancaster — have seen tens of thousands of early voters this year. Election workers have been busy keeping up with the demand, especially during the lunch hour.
Though most people Tuesday expected a speedy in-and-out process, they were surprised to find long lines and at times 10- to 15-minute waits.
Many of the people with Raynovich were also first-time early voters. Both major political parties have encouraged people to vote early.
Douglas County Election Commissioner Dave Phipps estimated that about 85,000 people in the county will vote early in this election, topping the 60,000 who did so in 2008. More than half, or 45,000, have voted by mail, he said.
Sarpy County has already topped its 2008 early-voting record, with more than 24,000 ballots cast, and Pottawattamie County has been processing 800 to 1,000 early ballots per day.
People said they voted early for convenience or because they would be out of town or away at college next Tuesday.
Nick Blanc, 29, of Omaha, a systems administrator at PayPal, said he requested an early ballot so he could research the candidates before voting.
“I want to look up the candidates on the Web before I vote,” Blanc said. “I've gotten in there before and not known who someone is. This way I will be more informed.”
Like many early voters, Dr. Phyllis Nsiah-Kumi, 39, a physician, will be out of town next Tuesday. Nsiah-Kumi braved the lines on crutches because of an injury.
“I would definitely vote early again,” she said, “but next time I'm here, let's hope I'm not on crutches.”
In Douglas County, early voting in person ends at 5 p.m. Monday.
Early ballots — by mail or hand delivery — must be returned to a drop box or an election official by 8 p.m. Tuesday, when the polls close.
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