Civic Nebraska @ the Statehouse: Bills, bills, all types of bills

There are more than 20 bills and a few resolutions about elections and voting rights. From great bills that would protect voting rights for first responders to terrible bills that would restrict early voting, there’s a lot to cover. 

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Bill introduction for the second session of the 107th Nebraska Legislature has concluded – and we have hundreds of new bills to read, including nearly 20 bills about voting rights.

Now what? 

Every bill in Nebraska gets a hearing. Senators introduce their idea, answer questions, proponents and opponents are allowed to give their input and be questioned by senators. The wonderful unicameral staff is great about scheduling thematically, so you can expect a few big “election days,” in which we’ll be testifying on several important bills on the same day. 

The first big election hearing is at 1:30 pm this Wednesday, Jan. 26. The Government, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee will be hearing the following: 

LB843 This is the annual elections cleanup/omnibus bill from the Secretary of State’s office. This year’s bill includes a lot of small, important changes to our election code, like protecting dropboxes, updating language to make sense for voters in Mountain Standard Time, and removing a burdensome notary requirement for replacement ballots. We have some suggestions for improvement, but we’re productively working with stakeholders to make this bill even better. 

LB858 We’re opposing a bill that would blanket ban the use of private dollars when conducting elections. This is in response to some outcry over a grant Lancaster County accepted to help pay for extra COVID expenses when conducting the 2020 elections. Our elections are and should continue to be publicly funded, but we think this bill is a mistake. Especially as our elections and voting rights become more and more politicized by election conspiracy theorists, we cannot assume there won’t come a time when a private grant may be necessary to compensate for an administration’s refusal to, for example, acknowledge the burden of a pandemic on voters. 

LB785 This bill unnecessarily reduces the amount of time Nebraska voters get with their early ballots. The flexibility and convenience of early voting are part of what makes it so popular, in Nebraska and nationwide. Restricting this timeline serves no meaningful policy purpose. It also limits third-party ballot collection, an essential process for voters who can’t easily leave their homes. 

The Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee will meet in Room 1507 of the State Capitol at 1:30 pm Wednesday. Here’s how to add your testimony to the record.

Other big news

Since we’re in Year Two of this biennium, bills introduced last year still have hope. We’re thrilled that LB158, Sen. Justin Wayne’s bill to improve Nebraska’s archaic felony disenfranchisement laws, advanced from committee. We will continue to aggressively support this bill, and we’ll need your help telling state senators to do the right thing and get it over the finish line. 

Stay tuned for more updates on election hearings throughout the session – in fact, you can join us at 6:30 pm CST tonight [Jan. 24] on Zoom for a Q&A about the legislative session so far. As always, reach out if we can help you get engaged.

Thank you for your dedication to voting rights! 

Westin Miller
Director of Public Policy
Civic Nebraska

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