On Feb. 27, dozens of Nebraskans came to the State Capitol to register their opposition to LR292CA, a proposed legislative resolution that would lead to voter ID laws in our state. In addition, more than five dozen Nebraskans submitted letters in opposition to the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. Whether in person or from a distance, opponents far outpaced supporters.
During the hearing, Civic Nebraska Director of Public Policy Westin Miller, speaking in opposition to the measure, framed the discussion around five questions. These questions, he said, are usually seriously considered regarding any bill that is proposed – but for some reason, they tend to go mostly unasked when that legislation is proposing a voter ID law.
Let’s unpack them:
1. “Is there a clear problem you are solving?”
Those who want to make it harder for people to vote usually bring up two “problems” that will be fixed by voter ID: voter fraud, and fear of voter fraud.
First, voter fraud: The only kind of voter fraud that can be prevented by voter ID is voter impersonation fraud. And the number of voter impersonation cases in Nebraska has been exactly zero.
Second, fear of voter fraud. It’s worth asking a question we usually skip, which is “Why are people afraid of voter fraud?” We submit that people are afraid of voter fraud because politicians have made them afraid of voter fraud.
2. “Is there evidence your policy will be effective?”
We don’t question for a second many are feeling unsure about election processes. Public trust in elections is value No. 1 when it comes to supporting legislation.
That’s why it’s so important to remember that there is exactly zero valid evidence proving that voter ID laws make anyone feel better about the state of elections or even the existence of voter fraud. Learn more about recent research that examines this specifically in our official testimony to the committee.
3. “Are you spending money?”
The answer is yes – this measure will cost money, and lots of it. Constitutional amendments can’t have fiscal impact statements; that’s the only reason LR292CA doesn’t have one. Every state with a strict voter ID law pays for free IDs for those who don’t have them. But our most recent fiscal note for a voter ID bill is from 2018, and it carried an initial cost of $2.9 million, with a budget recurring cost of $750,000 per year.
4. “Is this expenditure the most effective use of taxpayer dollars right now?”
No. senators are being asked to spend money on a policy that lacks any evidence of being effective.
This is a bad use of taxpayer dollars.
5. “Is your bill written in the most effective and responsible form?”
No. This is a very vague voter ID proposal. We understand that can be politically advantageous, because it would allow wiggle room for negotiating, etc. But senators are being asked to authorize a potential constitutional amendment which, if approved, would then require them to pass a voter ID law, without any guarantees of what the law will or won’t include. There are NO guarantees about the money required. There are NO guarantees of *which* IDs will or won’t be valid.
Regardless, senators would have no choice but to pass some kind of bill. And that’s a lousy position to put our elected leaders in any day of the week, but especially when crafting legislation as difficult as this.
The bottom line is, voter ID just doesn’t add up. Now, the committee will consider whether the resolution merits advancement to the full Nebraska Legislature. We strongly urge the committee members to reject LR292CA, an expensive, badly constructed measure that only would make it harder for Nebraskans to vote.