On Jan. 31, 2024, Civic Nebraska’s director of public policy, Heidi Uhing, delivered the following testimony on LB861, a bill that would change the process and threshold for removing one’s signature from a petition.
I’m here to testify in opposition to LB861. Voters who have signed a ballot initiative but then changed their mind already have three options in place: they can go to their election office to fill out a form to remove their name from the list; they can deliver a form that is notarized to this effect; or, more simply, they can simply vote against the measure if it is placed on the ballot.
Signing on to support a ballot initiative or referendum is not the final stage of this process. Voters will have a chance to log their final opinion on the ballot in November. A voter’s signature is not necessarily supporting the policy change, but rather the opportunity for all voters to consider it later. There is plenty of opportunity for a voter to change their mind and then vote accordingly in the upcoming election if that issue is, indeed, on the ballot.
We have concerns that removing security measures could make voters subject to harassment. This policy change could, for example, enable people to be hired by a campaign opposing a ballot measure to stake out signature gatherers and then approach voters who have just signed and encourage them to remove their signatures. Unlike the petition itself, there is no requirement that the letter called for in this bill would also provide the actual language of the ballot initiative, making it difficult for voters to verify, confirm, or dispute claims made by the person asking for their signature removal. In other states, similar legislation has enabled door-to-door campaigns of initiative signers that can feel intimidating.
Nebraska has seen an increased use of ballot measures in recent years. We are asking more of our Secretary of State’s Office to verify all these signatures being submitted, and creating an opportunity for abuse of the initiative process could result in paperwork that takes their attention away from doing the work of the people. A process is already in place for this removal, and people who want to remove their names have successfully availed themselves of it.
Because we are concerned this change could encourage harassment, dishonesty, or bad behavior, we oppose LB861.