You have to have an ID at stores, bars, banks, and to drive. Isn’t this just common sense?
Because shopping, drinking, banking, and driving are not rights that are enshrined in both the U.S. and Nebraska Constitutions. Our democracy is not transactional. Our polling places are not stores. And we should not casually assume everyone in Nebraska’s life experience is the same as ours. Especially when it comes to voting, our most cherished right under our federal and state Constitutions.
Doesn’t it say in the petition language that it won’t hinder anyone’s right to vote?
The petition language does include a line about preserving individual rights under the U.S. and Nebraska Constitutions. That was likely added to prevent this initiative from being disqualified from the 2022 Nebraska ballot (in the event petitioners gather enough signatures). Which is a big red flag right away, and betrays this proposed amendment’s real motive. Can you imagine the confidence we’d have in the U.S. or Nebraska Constitutions if all of their articles had to explicitly state “as long as it isn’t unconstitutional” in them? Isn’t that the point of a Constitution in the first place?
There’s a sad tradition of laws like these throughout our nation’s history, which say one thing for judges to consider but in practice mean something entirely different. If this revision to our state Constitution comes to pass, what matters is how it is put into practice. And we guarantee it will deny many Nebraskans the ability and opportunity to vote.
Lots of other states have these kinds of restrictions. Why not Nebraska?
The short answer is because we’re Nebraska, not these other states. Some states have same-day voter registration, why not Nebraska? Some states have universal vote-by-mail, why not Nebraska? Because we’re Nebraska, with unique values, culture, and priorities.
The longer answer is that if this initiative succeeds, Nebraska would become one the strictest in the nation in terms of ID requirements to vote. The petition language mentions “valid photographic identification” as a requirement, but leaves it open for politicians to determine what “valid” means. We already know a few that won’t work: No birth certificates. No Social Security cards. No student, business, or even some military IDs. Your driver’s license might not be enough in some cases, either: Did you move recently? Get married? Change your name? You might think your ID is still “current.” But under this proposal, there could be quite a difference between “current” and “valid.”
What’s wrong with some extra assurance that they’re checking IDs?
Nebraska voters already do provide IDs – when they register to vote. This proposal, though, is the Election Day equivalent of TSA checking your ID when you enter the airport, when you go through the first security desk, again at the gate, and then when you find your seat – and then kicking you off the plane if you accidentally sat in your spouse’s spot instead of the one on your ticket.
Faith in our institutions is something Civic Nebraska studies and works on – a lot. It’s a cornerstone of democracy, and it’s why we work to improve our elections so they can be the very best they can be. Nebraska’s elections are secure and efficient, and there is no evidence of voter impersonation anywhere in our state, ever.
ID measures like the one being floated in Nebraska have very little to no effect on improving views on election integrity. Let’s put it this way: In 2020, there was a ton of attention on, accusations about, and anger over the election results in Arizona and Georgia. Both of these states have strict identification requirements, but it didn’t keep politicians and partisans from alleging that those elections were somehow fraudulent. In the long run, these kinds of restrictions do nothing to make anyone feel better.
But wouldn’t this make our elections even a little bit more secure?
They’d make them more complicated, but not more secure. Imagine needing to make photocopies of your ID – twice – to first request and then cast an absentee ballot. Imagine being turned away from your polling place on Election Day because a part-time poll worker is put in the position of being an ID expert. Imagine having to wait to cast a provisional ballot (or a “ballot of last resort”), because of a question or confusion over anything on your ID at the discretion of the part-time poll worker. And imagine having to wait in long lines to vote. In Nebraska.
Nebraska already has secure elections – they are the envy of the nation and have a long history of nonpartisan integrity, accuracy, and transparency. This includes requiring voters to present proper identification when they register and then signing an affidavit when they vote, both in person or via absentee ballot. This secure system has worked for decades and decades; it’s not broken, and we don’t need to fix it.
What’s the big deal? Doesn’t everyone in Nebraska already have a valid ID?
No, the simple answer is that they don’t. Consider JS, a 79-year-old lifelong Republican who has gradually lost her sight over the past decade. This keeps her from driving, and while she holds onto her driver’s license, it has long since expired. A shut-in, JS can’t get to the DMV to get an ID. She also can’t use a computer. Yet, she votes in person in every election at her usual polling place. Under this proposal, JS would be turned away after a lifetime of voting in Nebraska.
Like JS, it’s proven to be more difficult for older voters, low-income Nebraskans, young people and students, Black and brown voters, and rural Nebraskans to obtain (and maintain) what would likely constitute a “valid ID” under this ill-advised proposal. That’s a simple truth.
Can’t the state just give everyone an ID so they can vote?
Great idea! We were about to say that if you force people to buy a government-issued ID to vote, that’s equivalent to a poll tax, a disgraceful relic of the Jim Crow era. OK, so in order to get “valid IDs,” in everyone’s hands, all we have to do is provide voter identification cards free of charge, right? That could mean opening new ID-issuing agencies or expanding existing agencies’ hours; adding more technology to produce more IDs where needed; creating or revising voter information and outreach materials to reflect the change; and spending untold hours training everyone at the state and county levels on all of the changes. That’s going to cost millions of our taxpayer dollars. In fact, the most recent estimate from the state was nearly $3 million in the first year alone and nearly $1 million a year forever after to maintain such a scheme.
Remember this the next time you curse a rough state highway, identify much-needed improvements in our state parks, or receive your Nebraska tax bill.
Shouldn’t we have this, though, to make sure there’s no cheating?
This is not a partisan issue. It’s a constitutional issue, and we can’t casually throw away our rights in exchange for useless security theater. Unfortunately, politicians have succeeded in making this a partisan issue, conveniently ignoring the fact that Nebraska elections are already run very well, are secure, and are a model for the nation.
This petition is simply to put it on the ballot. Don’t you think this should be up to the people to decide?
Not if the initiative would lead to undemocratic consequences. The irony of having Nebraskans vote on which of their fellow Nebraskans should and shouldn’t have the ability to vote is as undemocratic as it comes.