Douglas County Election Commissioner Brian Kruse says voters need to “opt in” to be on the list and a prechecked box isn’t the same as choosing.

The Douglas County Election Commission says it will not honor requests to be put on the permanent list for early voting applications if the request came from a mailer with a prechecked box.

This clarification came up because the Douglas County Democratic Party sent out about 18,000 mailers before the November 2018 election. Voters could fill them out and return them to the Election Commission to get an early voting ballot.

Some of those mailers had a line that asked to be put on the permanent early voting request list, and the box next to it was already checked. Those people may be expecting to automatically get an early voting application before next year’s elections.

But they won’t unless they fill out and send in another application, Election Commissioner Brian Kruse said.

He said at least one Republican organization or candidate sent out prechecked boxes, and those were denied as well.

Kruse said voters need to “opt in” to be on the list and a prechecked box isn’t the same as choosing to be on the list.

Still, the chairwoman of the Douglas County Democratic Party, Crystal Rhoades, is unhappy with Kruse’s decision.

She accused Kruse — who was appointed by Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts — of favoring Republicans.

“The Republicans didn’t think of this, that’s what this is,” she said.

She has asked Kruse’s office to add every person who voted early in the 2018 general election to the permanent vote-by-mail request list. That’s almost 22,000 Democrats, 13,000 Republicans and 4,000 nonpartisan voters.

Kruse said no and added that he modeled the program after the one in Lancaster County, which also does not allow prechecked boxes.

Early voting allows voters to get a ballot mailed to them, fill it out at their leisure and mail it back or drop it off, and it’s been growing in popularity in Nebraska.

Last year, Kruse announced the creation of the early voting request list, which automatically gives voters a reminder each election to fill out a request.

Voters who have opted in to the list receive a vote-by-mail application before each election. To receive their actual ballot, they still need to fill out the application and send it back to the Election Commission.

Those who want to be added to the permanent list can fill out an application that’s available on the Election Commission website, votedouglascounty.com.

The list currently has about 30,000 voters on it, Kruse said. About half are Republican, a little more than one-third are Democrats and the rest are Libertarians or nonpartisan. In all, there are more than 350,000 people registered to vote in Douglas County.

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Rhoades said the party sent out the mailer from August to October 2018. After the deadline for early voting requests was closed, the Election Commission notified her that it wouldn’t honor the prechecked boxes.

She also said the Election Commission’s office had approved the prechecked box before she sent out the mailers.

She sent Deputy Election Commissioner Chris Carithers, a Democrat, an email on July 17, 2018, asking him to approve the language: “(check box) I’d like to receive a vote by mail application for every election.”

Kruse said Election Commission officials did not realize she intended for the check box to be prechecked.

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