Costly, less accurate elections: we oppose LB457 & LB808

On March 22, 2023, Civic Nebraska submitted written opposition to LB457 and LB808. The bills would impose invasive constant video surveillance of voters and require hand counts of ballots, respectively. Here's our testimony on each of these bad bills.

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In opposition to LB457

LB457 would require video surveillance of voting and provide anti-tampering and anti-counterfeiting requirements for paper ballots, vote scanning devices, and vote tabulating equipment. Ballots distributed at polling places would be under video surveillance from the time they are handed to the voter until they are submitted in the ballot box. The video must be retained for at least three years.

The bill would also require that watermarks, holographs, taggants, and other anti-counterfeiting techniques be used on ballots. All told, the bill would cost more than $6 million, likely with additional annual costs.

Nebraska has had no cases of election fraud. This bill would require a large expenditure of state funds to prevent something that does not exist. Moreover, it could cause many voters to feel uncomfortable being under surveillance while voting their ballot. The resolution of today’s video cameras could enable viewers to zoom in on ballots, compromising the security of each voter’s secret ballot.

For these reasons, we oppose LB457 and encourage the committee not to advance the bill.

In opposition to LB808

The bill allows for the apparent loser in a general election for a seat in the Legislature to specify in his or her petition for a recount that the recount be done by hand count.

LB808 defines a hand count as “a means to conduct a count or recount of ballots by hand, without the assistance of any electronic device or equipment, including, but not limited to, scanners. … A hand count shall also include providing for the comparison and verification of the signature on the envelope holding a ballot for early voting with the signature on file with the election commissioner or county clerk for the respective voter who requested the ballot for early voting.”

The latter part of this provision is problematic because the verification of these signatures is done by comparing it to previous signatures in a voter’s electronic file. The use of a computer is required for this verification, but the bill would require that the count be done “without the assistance of any electronic device.”

A 2018 study by the MIT Election Data and Science Lab found ballot scanners to be more accurate than hand counts. The study focused on two Wisconsin statewide races with recounts, where some localities count ballots by hand and others count them using machines: “In Wisconsin’s 2011 Supreme Court election recount, the hand-counted paper ballots differed from the recount by 0.28 percent while the difference for scanned paper ballots was 0.15 percent. In its 2016 recount of the presidential election, hand-counted paper ballots were off by 0.18 percent while scanned ballots were off by 0.13 percent.” 

Staffing costs for conducting hand counts are also substantially higher. Why would we pay more for less accuracy in our election results?

Follow all election- and civics-related bills at our Bill Tracker page.

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