Fans of voting rights have an opportunity to send some love for early voting to the Legislature’s Government, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee this week. A hearing on Valentine’s Day will consider two bills that are consequential for Nebraska’s access to vote. Submit your public comments on the bills by 8 am CST on Feb. 14 for them to be included in the public record.
LB1211, introduced by Sen. Ben Hansen of Blair, seeks to reduce early voting periods from the current 35 days to 22, reducing it by more than one-third. The bill has 28 co-sponsors, including the following members of the Government Committee: Sens. Brewer, Aguilar, Halloran, Lowe, and Sanders.
This reduction would create an unnecessary time crunch for county election officials who would need to conduct elections in this reduced time. We can anticipate this would require additional staffing, training, and costs, requiring staff to work nights and weekends to meet the new deadline.
For counties whose mail is distantly routed, voters would need to exercise even more caution to get their ballots returned well within that range to allow time for local mail to be processed in other locations before making it back to their county election office before the close of the election.
Nebraska’s elections have worked smoothly under this time frame, and voting by mail has only grown in popularity with each election, so it seems nonsensical to put arbitrary limitations on this well-functioning process. If anything, senators should be bringing bills to the Government Committee that would simplify voting and make it more accessible.
LB1042 is an example of such legislation that respects Nebraska’s voters. Introduced by Sen. John Fredrickson of Omaha, this bill would bring automatic voter registration to Nebraska. Under the bill, those filling out forms at the Department of Motor Vehicles to receive or update their driver’s license or state identification would be provided the convenience of having those forms also serve to register or update their voter registration information. Those who wish not to register to vote would have the opportunity to opt-out.
Half of the other states have made this change because of the additional security and administrative cost savings it provides. Aside from saving the voters’ time from needing to fill out additional forms, the bill would:
save administrative time and cost for staff to enter data from separate forms;
allow for the voter rolls to be updated with voters’ most recent information, creating more accurate voter data;
result in fewer provisional ballots needing to be cast during an election due to outdated voter data, saving additional administrative time and cost.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Submit public comments before 8 am CST on Feb. 14 to:
SUPPORT LB1042 (Fredrickson): provides for automatic voter registration.
OPPOSE LB1211, (Hansen): reduces the vote by mail period from 35 days to 22 days.
Testify about either bill in person at the hearing on Feb. 14 at 1:30 pm in Room 1507 at the State Capitol.