First set of voter ID bills would punish Nebraska voters 

The bills, the first of several expected to address voter identification, show the extreme lengths some are willing to go to make it harder for Nebraskans to vote.

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A pair of voter ID bills introduced today in the Nebraska Legislature seeks to severely limit voters and make the state’s elections some of the most restrictive in the nation.

LB228 and LB230, introduced by State Sen. Steve Erdman of Bayard, are the first of several expected voter ID bills in the 2023 legislative session. Together, the bills would all but eliminate vote-by-mail, sharply raise requirements to register and create new criminal punishments for both voters and election workers who may unintentionally not comply with reams of additional restrictions and requirements. 

“These bills show the extreme lengths some are willing to go to make it harder for Nebraskans to cast their votes,” said Heather Engdahl, director of voting rights at Civic Nebraska. “Together, LB228 and LB230 would fundamentally and needlessly alter our state’s elections for the worse.” 

Most significantly, LB230 would compel nearly all Nebraskans to vote in person. It would abolish the state’s no-excuse absentee voting, and also would limit mail voting to military personnel and disabled citizens who qualify. 

In the past two election cycles, more than 1.3 million Nebraskans cast early ballots. Nearly 150,000 of those came from rural counties that employ all-vote-by-mail systems. Those counties consistently have outperformed the rest of the state in voter participation.

Vote-by-mail is already highly regulated in Nebraska, Engdahl said. 

“Mail-in ballots are extremely difficult to tamper with, and they are one of the most secure voting methods,” Engdahl said. “Ironically, this is a bill that supposedly aims to ‘secure the vote’ by eliminating one of the safest and most secure voting practices in our state’s history.”

Currently, first-time Nebraska voters can submit several forms of ID to register. They include a copy of a utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, or another current government document that is current and that shows the name and address of the applicant as they appear on the application. LB230 would do away with those options, which would likely dissuade younger and lower-income voters from registering.

Also:

›› The legislation includes an “emergency clause.” This indicates that if it is passed and signed into law, its sweeping revisions to election law would take effect immediately with no time for voters or election workers to adjust. Compounding the concern, the legislation creates stiff felony and misdemeanor penalties for voters and election officials, respectively, if they are found in non-compliance. 

›› One of the bills calls for all ballots to be counted on Election Day, which puts undue pressure and burdens on election officials as well as increases the risk for inaccurate or incomplete vote counts. Several of the bill’s provisions also would increase the need for provisional ballots, often called “the ballot of last resort,” which are time-consuming and labor-intensive for election officials to validate.

›› Provisional-ballot voters would be given one week to prove their identity if they fail to present their ID on Election Day. However, LB230’s language prohibits voter rolls from being updated as a part of this process.     

›› While disabled Nebraskans would still be allowed to vote by mail, they would be required to swear an oath that their condition prevents them from casting an in-person ballot. In addition, they would be required to submit a color photocopy of a “qualifying identification” each and every time they request and submit a mail-in ballot. 

›› The legislation does make provisions for free state-issued IDs, but only in limited cases, meaning most Nebraskans will still be required to pay a fee to obtain the identification necessary to exercise their right to vote.  

“Proposing a bill that would abolish a popular voting method can only be seen as an attempt to limit Nebraskans’ ability and opportunity to vote,” Engdahl said. “Our elected officials can do much better than such blatant government overreach.”

Follow Civic Nebraska legislative priorities with our Bill Tracker.

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