‘We must stand firm’: Our testimony on LB1042, LB1211

On Feb. 14, 2024, Civic Nebraska director of public policy Heidi Uhing testified in support of LB1042 (automatic voter registration) and in opposition to LB1211 (shortening Nebraska voters' early-voting window by nearly 40%). Here is her prepared testimony.


Testimony on LB1211

I’m here to speak in opposition to LB1211. We are particularly grateful for this opportunity to show our love and appreciation for voting by mail on a day like Valentine’s Day. For those of us who feel like our ballots are a love letter to democracy, we are particularly protective of our right to vote and the people and processes that enable us to do so.

We strongly oppose all attempts to limit voting by mail. Not just because the right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy and should not be impeded, but because we can’t support legislation that is passed based on disinformation. Many who are calling for these limits have, for years, continued to make claims about widespread voter fraud, but failed to provide evidence of it. We cannot allow any measures that restrict or impede this fundamental right to advance on some vague notion of a stolen election.

Voting by mail is not merely a convenience; it is a crucial tool for ensuring access to the ballot box for all citizens, particularly those who face barriers such as age, physical disabilities, lack of transportation, child care, or scheduling conflicts. Limiting voting by mail would particularly disenfranchise voters living in rural or remote areas. These communities already face significant challenges in accessing traditional polling locations, and needlessly shortening the timeframe for the option to mail their ballots would only exacerbate these disparities, as turnaround times for rural areas can reach nearly a week one-way. 

Moreover, voting by mail has proven to be a secure and reliable method of voting. Voting by mail is the most secure form of voting because our signatures are verified by election officials against our voter files on record. And a growing number of voters prefer it. Statewide, nearly 40% of Nebraska voters chose to vote early in the 2022 election, and we expect that number to increase in this year’s presidential election.

Early voting also provides administrative benefits, as it spreads out the voting period, reducing congestion at polling places on Election Day. This can lead to shorter lines, decreased wait times, and a smoother voting experience for voters who choose to cast their ballots early or on Election Day itself. Nebraska’s elections have worked very well under this time frame, so it seems nonsensical to put arbitrary limitations on this well-functioning process, particularly at a time when they are working to implement significant administrative changes required by the voter ID law passed last year.

In the face of efforts to restrict voting rights, we must stand firm in our commitment to upholding the principles of democracy. Therefore, I urge you to reject any proposals aimed at limiting or curtailing early voting and voting by mail and instead protect and support the election officials who are asking for the time needed to continue to do their jobs accurately for all of us.

Testimony on LB1042

I’m here in support of Sen. Fredrickson’s LB1042. In 1993, the National Voter Registration Act created a process by which Nebraskans can register, update, or affirm their registration during a transaction with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Sen. Fredrickson’s bill proposes an addition to this provision that will benefit the state in two ways: it will make a current government function more efficient, and it will improve the accuracy, and thus the security, of our voter rolls. 

Heidi Uhing, Civic Nebraska’s director of public policy

When you’re applying for a new or replacement license at the DMV, the forms provide the option to register to vote while you’re already filling out your paperwork. A lot of people do–about one in five. But when they don’t, that’s a tremendous opportunity cost for the state; updating or affirming a registration while already interacting with a government agency is the most cost-effective and convenient way to keep those rolls accurate. These interactions reduce the need for provisional ballots later, reduce confusion on election day, and help our voter rolls easily keep up with voters who move both into and within our state. 

This bill simply changes that default interaction from an opt-in to an opt-out. There’s ample evidence from 24 other states that this simple change will increase the number of voter records auto-updates. Moreover, it’s a convenience to voters who would otherwise have to submit a separate application to vote or update their voter registration by providing identical information.

The current registration system can be needlessly difficult for many voters such as families, members of the military, and students who move frequently and end up registered in the wrong district, then finding themselves unable to vote or needing to cast a provisional ballot. Automatic voter registration would allow voter registration to automatically move with the voter.

I can share a case study with you: Oregon was the first state to implement automatic voter registration in 2016. That year, 230,000 additional Oregonians automatically registered to vote in time for the election, and more than 97,000 of them cast a ballot. The Oregon Secretary of State’s office reported that they were able to update roughly 278,000 voter records with new address information, creating efficiencies and cost savings in their elections.

In short, Automatic Voter Registration is a fair and impartial way to ensure that every eligible citizen has an opportunity to have their voice heard in our elections. Because it’s also an easy way to improve the accuracy of our voter rolls and reduce government waste, I encourage the committee to help Nebraska join the other half of states in making this update by advancing the bill to General File.

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