The 106th legislative session has officially come to a close, four months later than expected. The session was unprecedented, and many senators, staff, advocates, and voters breathed a frustrated sigh of relief when the Legislature adjourned sine die.
Despite the chaos, partisanship, and unexpected impacts of COVID-19 that colored the legislative session, we have plenty of good news to report on the elections and voting rights front.
First, the two initiatives we opposed this year, voter ID and an Article V convention, were successfully defeated. Many of you made phone calls, sent emails, and packed the hearing against voter ID. We appreciate your efforts so much, and you won!
The Legislature also passed two important initiatives that will improve Nebraska elections.
LB1055, the elections package containing important improvements to our vote by mail infrastructure, has been passed by the legislature and signed into law by Gov. Ricketts. LB1055 guarantees in-person voting options in counties that conduct elections entirely by mail. Preserving this option as voting by mail continues to gain popularity throughout the state is essential for voters who need translation assistance, who need to use an ADA-compliant voting machine, or for Nebraskans who just really like the tradition of voting in person. A huge thank-you to Sen. Brewer and his staff for introducing this bill and for designating it as a government, military, and veterans affairs committee priority.
Amended into LB1055 was LB1086, a bill introduced by Sen. Matt Hansen. LB1086 codifies into law some important protections for our election observation program while facilitating clearer communication between election observers and the heroes running our elections. The Nebraska Association of County Officials, the Secretary of State’s office, and a number of county officials but especially Lancaster County Election Commissioner David Shively deserve our thanks for writing this bill and working with our team through several rounds of revisions. And, of course, thank you to Sen. Hansen and his staff for carrying this bill through the legislative process.
We are losing some giants in the Legislature due to term limits. Senators Bolz, Crawford, Howard, Kolowski, Scheer, and, of course, Sen. Chambers. This truly is a group of experts, and it’s hard to imagine the Legislature without them. They will be missed, but their impact is permanent.
The age of planning with certainty seems to be over, but for now, the plan is to begin the 2021 session “normally” in January. It will begin with a 90-day session (January through May), the bill list will be wiped clean, new leadership will be elected, and new committees will be assigned. And our team will be there, ready to defend your right to vote and continue advancing the cause of secure, accessible, and fair elections.