Nebraskans want some kind of voter ID law, but a senator’s second attempt to bring such a bill misses the mark, according to Secretary of State John Gale.
Larry Dix, executive director of the Nebraska Association of County Officials, read Gale’s statement during Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on Legislative Bill 381, Thursday, March 7. The bill, introduced by Sen. Charlie Janssen of Fremont, would require Nebraskans to show a photo ID when voting. Janssen, a candidate in the 2014 governor’s race, introduced a similar bill last year, which failed.
Former senator Brenda Council of Omaha said LB381 might be unconstitutional. Amy Miller, ACLU Nebraska legal director, and Adam Morfeld, the Nebraskans for Civic Reform executive director, agreed. Morfeld said his group of 27 Nebraska organizations would sue the state if the bill passes.
“Voting is a fundamental constitutional right, not only the U.S. constitution,” she said. “But I urge the members of this committee and the Legislature as a whole to not forget the Nebraska Constitution.”
The Nebraska constitution prohibits anything hindering a qualified voter, which is a registered voter, she said.
Thirty-three states now have voter ID laws, with one of the strictest being Indiana. Janssen based LB381 on that law. His bill would make the Department of Motor Vehicles offer a state identification card at no cost to a voters who can’t afford another government photo ID. Mail ballots wouldn’t require a photo ID, unless it was the person’s first time voting. Anyone who doesn’t provide the ID at the polls would have to cast a provisional ballot, which means voting officials have to verify the person’s identity.
Janssen was amending the bill to allow election officials in rural areas to vouch for the identity of voters if they forget to bring their ID to vote. He cited a 2012 report by the Pew Center on the States that found 24 million U.S. voter registrations, or one out of eight, were no longer valid or significantly inaccurate.
"The report also found 1.8 million dead people listed as voters and 2.75 million people registered in more than one state,” he said.
But because Nebraska hasn’t had widespread voting fraud, Gale said the bill might not be appropriate for the state. Gale’s statement was read in a neutral position. Other opponents said the bill could reduce the amount of people who vote by putting up barriers. Some groups who might be hurt included students and adopted children who might be on the move, and people who can’t easily travel such as the elderly and disabled, including veterans.
Former judge Jan Gradwohl said veterans might be in homes or hospitals and not able to go to the Department of Motor Vehicle to get the ID required by this bill.
Page 2 of 2 - “Here are people who have fought for the right to vote and who would be themselves unable to vote,” she said.
Supporter Marty Brown, vice president of Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom, said the American flag in the hearing room reminded him of his service in the military in 1965. People spit on him when he returned from service, he said.
“We don’t have any respect for that flag,” he said. “In reference to LB381, we’d give some of that respect back.”