Donate

What? So What? Now what?: Stopping extreme voter ID

Friends,

Get ready. Significant movement has occurred this week in the months-long statehouse discussion about voter ID, and we expect conflict at the State Capitol. Here’s a What-So What-Now What on the matter.

What?

On Wednesday, May 17, the Legislature’s Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee voted 7-0-1 to advance an amendment to the full Legislature. The amendment, known as AM1801, would satisfy the voter ID mandate in time for the 2024 Nebraska Primary in May. State Sen. Megan Hunt was present, not voting. The amendment could be considered by the Legislature as soon as Thursday, May 18. [EDIT: The measure now will likely be heard as soon as Monday, May 22].
The Committee’s amendment includes a range of IDs that would qualify for in-person voting, including student, tribal, military, and nursing home IDs. For vote-by-mail, voters would be required to provide their Nebraska drivers’ license or state ID number when requesting a ballot. Alternatively, voters could include a photocopy of their qualifying ID.
Importantly, the Committee’s amendment does not include a series of severe restrictions proposed in the final weeks of the session. Many were brought by State Sen. Julie Slama, who pushed to direct the Secretary of State’s office to conduct duplicative citizenship investigations of registered voters, to require the Attorney General to audit and remove voters from the rolls, and to institute other anti-voter measures that were never shared with the public or subject to a public hearing.
The Committee heard hours of Nebraskans’ testimony and worked for months across ideological lines to craft the measure. LB535 – which Slama introduced in January – was intended to be the vehicle to pass voter ID this session. However, following the Committee’s vote on the amendment, Slama then filed a motion to withdraw LB535, calling the Committee’s amendment to it an “abomination.” The Committee will likely need to attach AM1801 to another bill.  

So what?

Civic Nebraska cannot in good conscience support any legislation that makes it more difficult for Nebraskans to cast their ballots. But from our perspective, AM1801 is the “least bad” option.
This is in large part thanks to the diligence of the Government Committee. Members took their charge seriously, putting policy ahead of politics with a proposal that will inflict the least damage on voters. The Committee also resisted efforts to pull the measure to dangerous extremes. AM1801 rejects most of the duplicative measures and costly, complicated requirements that would have created negative consequences for Nebraska voters. Ninety-two of 93 county clerks and election commissioners have signed on to the Committee’s version, and we trust these experts.

Now what?

With only 11 days left in the 2023 legislative session, time is of the essence. There is very little time for Nebraskans – much less their elected representatives – to absorb and fully appreciate the content, intent, and ramifications of the proposed amendment. Wednesday’s maneuvering seems to signal that a few lawmakers still remain at odds over more than a few components. A floor fight could be in the offing, including floor amendments attempting to re-introduce citizenship investigations or to limit Nebraskans’ voting by mail. These kinds of schemes have proven disastrous to administer in other states.
Here’s what you can do: Contact state senators TODAY and encourage them to resist attempts to bring floor amendments that would disenfranchise voters. The Committee’s amendment satisfies the constitutional requirement but doesn’t add a host of arbitrary, unnecessary barriers making it harder for Nebraskans to vote. Voter ID bills are a delicate balance of many components, and tinkering at the last minute can make it much more difficult and costly to administer.

Amendment 1801
to Legislative Bill 514
(2023)

On May 18, 2023, the Nebraska Legislature’s Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee voted to advance AM1801 to the full Legislature. The amendment would impose new identification requirements on Nebraska voters. Here are the key components of the amendment.

Documents issued by the United States, State of Nebraska, an agency or political subdivision of Nebraska, or a postsecondary institution (college student IDs).
Qualifying IDs would include hospital or assisted-living facility records and temporary ID receipts (temporary ID receipts would add a photo under this amendment).
Yes, with a provisional ballot, which would need the voter to “cure” the ballot – verify their identity with a qualifying ID – within one week after Election Day.
The measure does not limit IDs to only unexpired identification.
The Secretary of State would be authorized to provide “reasonable impediment certification” for a disability or an illness, a lack of a birth certificate or source documents, or a religious objection to having a photo ID. These provisions keep the measure from being unconstitutional. 

 

Under this amendment, a Nebraska drivers license or state ID number could be written on the ballot request, or voters could provide a photocopy of a qualifying ID (or an impediment certification).
The Department of Health and Human Services and the DMV would charge no fee for copies of birth records for voting. The Secretary of State’s Office would reimburse all expenses to the political subdivisions. State IDs for voting purposes would be provided at no cost.
The state would publish a voter ID website and launch a public relations campaign on multiple platforms, as well as in-person events around Nebraska. 
The bipartisan Government Committee and 92 of 93 Nebraska county clerks and election commissioners.