The Battle To Move The Douglas County Election Office
Move it to a central "city" location or a central "county" location?
Move it to a central "city" location or a central "county" location? Video by kmtv.comvideo
Omaha, NE -- Friday was the deadline to register to vote by mail, or at a DMV. If you missed the deadline, you can only register now in person at your county election office. In Douglas County, that's at 115th and Davenport, and many voters complain it's a frustrating trip if you have to ride the bus.
We put it to the test. KMTV Action 3 News Reporter Liz Dorland and a group of community leaders rode the bus from 36th and Ames to the election office. It's almost a three-hour ride round trip. That's one reason why the county's election task force wants a second office in north Omaha or a new location all together.
Election Commissioner Dave Phipps said opening a satellite office will be too expensive. He want's to move the office to a more centralized place in the city, so it's easy for everyone. However, his push to move has been met with opposition by those who sign the counties checks, the Douglas County Board of Commissioners.
The Douglas County Election Office is located in west Omaha at 115th and Davenport. The building is up a hill, and behind a strip mall, you might not even know it's there unless you're hunting for it.
The location is one that County Election Commissioner Dave Phipps and Omaha City Councilman Ben Gray agree isn't ideal for people across Omaha to travel to. "We've talked to the county board several times, and said we need a different building because this location isn't very good for transportation from north Omaha, south Omaha or really anywhere. I mean the parking is bad here," explained Dave Phipps.
Phipps went before the Douglas County Board of Commissioners and asked to move his office back in 2009. The proposed location was at 97th and Mockingbird, where Phipps explained there's a better bus route, more work space, and more parking for voters. County commissioners didn't even discuss the idea.
Commissioner Clare Duda said, "They've wanted a better building in a more central location for quite some time but, we own that building, it's free to us. Therefore we have made the decision financially that that's where we want him to be located."
"Does that really pay off in the end," questioned Commissioner Mary Ann Borgeson. She continued, "I mean, is it really worth it for just those couple of times during the couple of years when there's an election cycle?"
Former Douglas County Election Commissioner and current county board member Mike Boyle has a different take. He said they need a different location. "Frankly, I don't think that the county board understands how the election office operates. It's like, all at once it's there, and then they don't see it for two years," he stated.
"Our solution really is, let's move the building somewhere with easier access, somewhere like Crossroads. They're doing a re-development there," said Dave.
He added Crossroads at 72nd and Dodge, is also a central hub for the bus system.
KMTV Action 3 took the idea to Commissioner Borgeson. She replied as far as foot traffic, yes it is a good location. Then continued, "You know that's not the center of the city anymore. You know really if you're looking at it that way. You know if you're looking at it that way 156th and Maple is actually the center of the county."
Duda said, "I dream someday that they will be out at 156th and Maple which is the center of the county. It is not the center of the city or of the people."
The Douglas County Board of Commissioners said they will listen to every proposal to move the office and consider it. Dave Phipps said he'll revisit the idea after the election.
Reported By: Liz Dorland, firstname.lastname@example.org