Aggressive tactics at the height of petition season

Paid, out-of-state voter ID petitioners are hustling for your signature. Decline to sign. 

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It’s not a secret that we oppose the current bid to impose additional strict photo ID requirements on our state’s voters. It’s an expensive and complicated solution in search of a problem that simply doesn’t exist in Nebraska, does nothing to improve our elections or our confidence in them, and prevents untold numbers of eligible Nebraskans from voting.

Nevertheless, the voter ID push is well-resourced and organized, and it has enlisted paid out-of-state petitioners to blanket the state to gather signatures with an eye on a November ballot initiative. As the July 7 deadline to submit signatures gets closer, we’re seeing and hearing about lots of signature-gathering activity from petitioners – and, inevitably, we’re getting questions and concerns from Nebraskans about petitioners’ conduct.

For clarity’s sake:

›› A petition can’t just be left in one location and picked up later. Petition circulators must sign affidavits under the penalty of law they personally witnessed every act of signing the petition by a voter. In other words, absentee circulating isn’t a thing in Nebraska. Call the Election Protection Line at 402.890.5291 or email us at john.cartier@civicnebraska.org if you spot any wayward, lonely petitions anywhere in the state, waiting for their circulator to retrieve them.

›› A circulator must state the reason for the petition as it is printed on the petition before a voter signs it. This means the circulator must read aloud the object clause of the initiative to each and every signer. We’ve heard about several instances of voter ID petition circulators failing to follow this basic, yet required step. Worse, on Monday, a Nebraska voter contacted us to report that she was approached by an aggressive circulator in Omaha’s Old Market. The voter asked the petitioner several times if the petition was against requiring a voter ID and against voter restrictions, to which the petitioner replied “Yes.” Obviously not the case, which the voter learned after signing – and which likely will disqualify that voter’s signature upon its submission. If confirmed, this is an egregious betrayal of voters’ trust, and if it’s happening more broadly we need to know about it right away.

›› Circulators cannot solicit signatures within 200 feet of a polling place. Nebraska electioneering law is crystal clear on this point: no petitioners can get in the faces of voters, either on Election Day or at any official county dropbox sites, as they arrive to vote. During Primary Election Day, we received several reports of voter ID petitioners standing next to at least one official Sarpy County ballot dropbox location, and notified officials. This continues to matter as Congressional District 1 prepares to vote in June to fill its vacant U.S. House seat. Simply put, if you are in Congressional District 1 and are dropping off your early mail-in ballot or voting early in-person, you should not have to stave off petitioners simply to cast your ballot.

›› Despite verbal gymnastics by some petition circulators, signing this petition doesn’t give anyone “the option to show your ID when you vote.” It’s about instituting a strict identification standard that will create new, repetitive barriers to the ballot for thousands of Nebraskans. Don’t

›› The State of Nebraska is not circulating this petition. There have been multiple reports of paid circulators asserting that they are working for “the State of Nebraska” or “the Secretary of State’s Office.” Among the notable instances were in mid-May near 72nd and Dodge streets in Omaha. A petition circulator reportedly identified themselves to a group of voters as being with “the State of Nebraska.” The irony of a petitioner approaching a member of the Nebraska Legislature aside, this is extremely concerning to hear. Nebraska law requires that the circulator’s paid or volunteer status be disclosed on the petition form in large red lettering. Look for this, ask questions if a petition circulator makes specious claims about being a state official, and proceed with caution if they persist on this point.

These kinds of aggressive tactics, while concerning, are not new, even for a petition that supporters repeatedly purport is a slam dunk. Nebraska allows petitioners to be from out of state and to get paid by the signature, which seems – in this case at least – to be creating incentives for circulators to really hustle. Literally and perhaps figuratively.

You can always record petition circulators, call our Election Protection Line at 402.890.5291, email us, or tag us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram with questions or concerns about petition circulators. If necessary and if possible, we can deploy one of our volunteer Voting Rights Advocates around Nebraska to gather more information.

Of course, the best course of action– for yourself and for all Nebraska voters in the long term – is to Decline To Sign. Here’s why we believe voter ID is a bad idea for the Cornhusker State (Now that is the good kind of content to circulate).

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