Payne, staff ‘focused on 2024 Primary Election

By: Jane Schuchardt


Editor’s Note: This continues a series of monthly articles celebrating pride in our town and its surroundings shown through the experience of residents and organizations. 

Of the many words with four letters in the English language, Antelope County Clerk Lisa Payne is most focused on VOTE this time of year. 

Citizens in a democratic society have a right, and responsibility, to vote, and Payne, who has had the clerk job, an elected position, since 2015, assures every VOTE gets counted fairly and honestly. 

In a fire-protected space Payne calls the record room, surrounded by hefty books in the Antelope County Courthouse in Neligh, she spoke of her three ‘hats’ – Clerk, Register of Deeds, and Election Commissioner (EC). 

Along the wall is the ballot-counting machine, programmed by Omaha company Election Systems & Software (ES&S). It includes a laptop that isn’t connected to the Internet. Hand counting is no longer done in Antelope County.

Verification that the machine is working correctly is a multi-step process. ES&S does a thorough check and so does Payne at least three times prior to an election. This is done by marking sample test ballots, keeping track of the tally, and then running the ballots through the machine to assure the numbers match. These sample ballots are stored away as required by Nebraska statute. Payne added assuredly, “Those counts are not included in election day totals.” 

Payne also hires a canvassing board of four or five Antelope County residents to watch the process and assure the counts are correct. This board, representing a mix of political parties, verifies the official vote count, which is about a five-day process. New this year, canvassing begins about seven days after the election. This is the amount of time voters are given to show a valid photo identification, new this year in Nebraska, if one wasn’t presented at the polls. 

“We do everything according to the voting laws in Nebraska,” said Payne, a 1985 graduate of Elgin’s Pope John High School. She also holds an associate degree from the former Nebraska College of Business, Omaha. 

Preparation for the May 14, 2024 primary election started last fall when ECs in all of Nebraska’s 93 counties got a 13-page official election calendar and received training from the office of the Secretary of State Robert B. Evnen. Payne is proud to work with the state team in Lincoln and also her non-elected colleagues in Neligh, Denise Kurpgeweit and Jenn Kester. 

With Primary Election Day nearing, Payne’s office has taken receipt of 5,975 official ballots which vary depending on the municipality, Educational Service Unit, and school, public power, fire, and natural resource district where an eligible voter resides. The primary ballot a voter receives also depends on political affiliation. Currently, in Nebraska, there are five choices – Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Legal Marijuana Now, or Nonpartisan. 

For those who have made the request, early voting ballots are mailed. Voters also can come into the courthouse to cast their ballots before May 14th or show up on election day at their designated voting location in Brunswick, Clearwater, Elgin, Neligh, Oakdale, Orchard, Tilden, or Royal. Nebraska doesn’t have an option for online voting. 

Payne said Antelope County is 75 percent Republican with the remaining 25 percent spread across the other choices. Voter turnout is generally less than 40 percent. 

Payne said she hires five people to work at each polling site, open 8:00 am to 8:00 pm. The ballots are secured in a locked box and brought to the courthouse record room, then counted generating an unofficial report of turnout and winners. The official report comes out after the canvassing board verifies the vote. 

Lauding the freedom we have to express our views through voting, Payne approaches her EC job with total commitment to running a statute-based election that’s fair and accurate. She welcomes questions at 402-887-4410 or Official newspapers in the county, The Elgin Review, Antelope County News, and the Summerland Advocate-Messenger, can publish ballots not more than 15 days before the election. In addition, the Secretary of State’s website at has details. Residents of Antelope County have until 6 p.m. this Friday, May 3, to register for the primary election and/or change party affiliation. Online registration also is an option. 

Payne is up for re-election, if she chooses to run, in 2026 with a new four-year term beginning in January of 2027. In the meantime, thank you, Lisa, for your dedicated service to Antelope County.