‘Reason for concern’: our testimony on LB535

Heidi Uhing, Civic Nebraska's director of public policy, testified in opposition to a voter ID bill being considered by the Nebraska Legislature's Government Committee.

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Hello, Chairman Brewer and committee members. My name is Heidi Uhing, and I’m the public policy director for Civic Nebraska. I’m speaking in opposition to LB535.

Civic Nebraska has long opposed voter ID for the reasons you’ve heard over the 12 years it has been before the Legislature: 

It’s unfair.

It’s inconvenient.

It’s unnecessary and expensive.

It violates some people’s right to vote.

So little information was provided in that ballot measure to enable voters to make an informed decision. It was just a couple of lines long. And now we have a 29-page bill (plus an amended version) that reveals exactly how Nebraskans will actually be affected by this law. There’s reason for concern.

Many supported voter ID because so many other states have also implemented it. Indeed, the majority of states have what’s come to be known as a non-strict requirement, where if the voter cannot provide a valid photo ID they can sign an affidavit of identity and still have their ballot count. They still get to vote. 

A strict photo ID requirement says that voters who don’t provide a qualifying ID must vote on a provisional ballot and take additional steps after Election Day for their ballot to count. These eight states are Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. This bill would put Nebraska in this small subset of states. 

But even among those “strict” states, LB535 is an outlier. The bill fails to provide important accommodations approved by even the strictest ID states in the country, needlessly turning people away from the polls.

For example, this bill is more restrictive than six of these eight states by not accepting any student IDs. 

It’s more restrictive than five of the eight states when it comes to accepting expired IDs.

It’s more restrictive than three of the eight states by not accepting IDs issued by another state.

There’s no doubt that many Americans are concerned about protecting our country’s elections. Implementing voter ID has been advanced as a solution to this problem, which is why we’re having this conversation today. But I would encourage committee members to remain focused on the larger picture: we all want our elections to be as good as they can be. 

Proponents have called voter ID a common-sense measure. What’s also common sense is automatically registering people to vote. Restoring former felons’ voting rights once they’ve paid their debt to society. Ensuring all polling places are ADA compliant. Expanding vote by mail, which has increased voter participation beyond what we could have imagined in our rural counties. Offer pre-paid postage on ballots and text voters to let us know that you received our ballots safely.

Consider this an opportunity to advance election improvements that voters would notice and appreciate, not just the inconveniences in this bill. The Legislature can make our elections stronger in so many ways, and this is the time to do it.

Thank you.

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