This blog post was published ahead of the Feb. 1 hearing for LB 535, one of the voter ID proposals under consideration. On Wednesday, March 1, the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee will hear more testimony on voter ID proposals. View the day's schedule on the Nebraska Legislature website. We are asking supporters to speak out against barriers and speak up in support of efforts to expand access.
Last November, Nebraska voters approved a constitutional amendment requiring that voters show photo ID before they vote. But that vote didn’t determine any specifics. The constitutional language sent the issue to the Nebraska Legislature to figure out implementation, and it said whatever bill they land on must “ensure the preservation” of voters’ constitutional rights.
Fast forward to today. State senators have brought forward multiple bills focused on voter ID, and some are deeply problematic.
The first hearing for one of those bills, LB 535, is set for Wednesday, Feb. 1 at 1:30 pm. We hope you’ll join us in testifying at the Capitol or submitting testimony online. You can also contact your senator directly. Find them here.
LB 535 has fatal flaws: it is overly burdensome and unnecessarily strict.
Many Nebraskans do not have one of the forms of government-issued photo identification that this bill would require to vote. These voters are disproportionately financially struggling, Nebraskans of color, older Nebraskans, and Nebraskans with disabilities. Such voters more frequently cannot afford or cannot obtain the underlying documents that are a prerequisite to getting the limited kinds of government-issued photo ID card that are required in the bill
Under the proposals of this bill, if a voter does not have valid photo ID at the time of voting, they must return to their election commission or county clerk office with photo ID within a week, a burdensome requirement when many voters do not have the means or ability to take time off work just to exercise their constitutional right.
And the bill does not create any sort of process for people without IDs to get an ID on-site at their local election office, a reasonable step to ensure that every eligible voter can practice a fundamental right.
In fact, two years ago during legislative testimony, Secretary of State Robert Evnen raised what he called a “reasonable” offer that would “be easy to implement,” telling senators “you just tell your constituent, you know, the Secretary of State will be out there with a camera, and we’ll get your ID.”
Where’s the Uber delivery service for voter IDs in this bill? In all seriousness, LB 535 presents insufficient plans for making sure every otherwise eligible voter without a satisfactory ID will be able to easily get one.
And when it comes to public education, LB 535 fails again. The bill only requires a new website and a public awareness campaign that involves “multiple mediums and in-person events” — a lackluster attempt that falls far short of ensuring Nebraskans will be informed and equipped for this significant change to our elections.
There is no evidence that voter fraud or voter impersonation is an issue in our elections. Ultimately, bills like this directly undercut faith in our secure elections and undermine the deeply held democratic value that no eligible voter should be kept from exercising their constitutional right to vote.
State senators need to appreciate that voters approved language that promised to protect voters’ rights. If state senators cannot arrive on a bill that is free from unfair or unlawful barriers, each of them has a responsibility to vote no on voter ID.