State officials outline election security, Medicaid expansion
LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Wednesday, Governor Pete Ricketts highlighted the State’s preparations for the 2020 General Election during a press briefing at the State Capitol. He also provided an update on Medicaid expansion. Coverage starts for the newly expanded program tomorrow, Oct. 1.
Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen joined the Governor to discuss his office’s work to safely run polling locations on Nov. 3 and to verify ballots sent in by mail.
Evnen said, at this point, his office has logged over 350,000 ballot requests, which is about 30% of Nebraska’s registered voters. Evnen did outline some of the concerns he had with early voting.
“As soon as we put it in the mail to you, we lose all control of that ballot,” Evnen said. “There are a number of issues that we have to focus on related to that.” One of the terms state officials use to describe issues with early voting is ballot harvesting. Officials said this is when a person gives their ballot to a third party to deliver.
According to Evnen, there has been an example of this in Nebraska with a school bond vote, but he doesn’t think any harm came from the situation.
“Ballot harvesting is illegal in a number of states,” Evnen said. “I think we have to look at laws in our state because it’s a practice that can really create security issues in our voting.” Evnen told voters who plan to mail in their vote that the postal service recommends mailing it by Oct. 27 to ensure it gets there by the deadline.
Officials outlined other ways of early voting, which include going to your county election office directly. Evnen said each office has a dropbox outside that people can access any time of day. People can also go into the county election office to vote in-person starting Oct. 5. Evnen said polling places will be open Nov. 3 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) CEO Dannette R. Smith also participated in the press briefing to review how to enroll for Heritage Health Adult, the expanded Medicaid program. Additionally, DHHS Interim Director of Medicaid & Long-Term Care, Jeremy Brunssen, reviewed his agency’s work to assist Nebraskans in applying for the new Medicaid health care coverage.
Smith outlined what DHHS is doing to ensure everyone who applied and is approved for expanded Medicaid receives their benefits. Smith said expanded Medicaid applies to those whose income is at or below 138% of the federal poverty level. For a single person, it’s around $17,000 and for a family of four it’s about $36,000. Brunssen said DHHS is doing its part to ensure people get their benefits on time.
“We’ve done well over 100 engagements with provider associations, community action partners, and anyone that would really take a meeting with us cause we often know that they’re the folks who get directly contacted for questions,” Brunssen said.
At this point, officials said over 10,500 Nebraskans have applied and been determined to be eligible. Officials estimate around 90,000 total Nebraskans are eligible for this program. People who applied and are approved will start receiving benefits Oct. 1. People looking to apply can visit www.ACCESSNebraska.ne.gov or call ACCESS Nebraska toll free at (855) 632-7633.
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