Today, April 4, the Nebraska Legislature is debating LR1CA, State Sen. John Murante’s 2017 proposal to implement voter ID laws in Nebraska, as well as three other troubling bills (click here for details on the bills, and what you can do to help defeat them).
LB1066, Murante’s 2018 voter ID proposal, did not gain traction because of its substantial fiscal note. So LR1CA, which cannot have a fiscal note because it is a proposed constitutional amendment, was prioritized this year by State Sen. Tyson Larson.
Civic Nebraska, ACLU of Nebraska, Nebraska Appleseed, and other advocacy groups have supported several election-related proposals throughout the 2018 session, including improving voter registration and restoring voting rights for returning citizens. But the coalition is unanimous in that voter ID legislation is irresponsible and ineffective, will disenfranchise eligible Nebraskans, and will waste taxpayer dollars.
Two paths, one bad bill
“These two voter ID proposals illustrate the two options we have for passing voter ID legislation in Nebraska: We can either violate the state constitution or waste millions of taxpayer dollars,” said John Cartier, director of voting rights at Civic Nebraska, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to create a more modern and robust democracy for all Nebraskans.
The Nebraska Constitution is one of the strictest in the nation in protecting voting rights. It states: “All elections shall be free; and there shall be no hindrance or impediment to the right of a qualified voter to exercise the elective franchise.” Requiring an eligible Nebraskan to buy a photo ID just to vote violates this requirement.
In an attempt to circumvent this protection, recent voter ID proposals require the secretary of state to provide free IDs to eligible voters who need them. The Legislative Fiscal Office estimates a start-up cost of $2.9 million and an annual cost of at least $750,000. This is a financial burden the state cannot bear, especially in our current budget environment.
Voter ID disenfranchises voters
Even if the state issues free IDs, requiring trips to the DMV will create additional barriers for rural Nebraska seniors. In 16 Nebraska counties –Arthur, Banner, Blaine, Boyd, Dixon, Gosper, Grant Hooker, Keya Paha, Logan, Loup, McPherson, Sioux, Thomas, Thurston, and Wheeler – the DMV is open once a month.
Access to transportation and limited DMV hours pose significant threats to the right to vote for senior citizens and Nebraskans with disabilities. A recent court case in Wisconsin outlines the many burdens voters faced in trying to get their free ID. Claudell Boyd, 62, went to the Wisconsin DMV twice with his Illinois ID, Social Security card, and marriage license, but was turned away because of a spelling error on his birth certificate.
Esmerelda Torres is a Texan who lives with disabilities that prevent her from driving and limit her mobility. Torres had previously tried to get an ID but had been rejected because she lived with her sister and had few documents containing both her name and her physical address.
“Voter suppression measures like LR1CA are proven to do nothing but block eligible and legal voters from exercising their Constitutional right to vote,” said Rebecca Gonzales, Nebraska Appleseed Immigrants and Communities program coordinator. “Recent examples include states like Alabama and Wisconsin, in which voter ID measures disenfranchised eligible voters preventing a disproportionate number of people of color, people with lower incomes, older adults, and mobile populations like college students from having their voices heard.
“We urge the Legislature to reject this measure and ensure every eligible Nebraska voter can exercise their right to vote without these barriers.”
“The research is crystal clear — voter ID laws make it harder for Black and Latino voters, elderly individuals, students, people with disabilities, and poor Nebraskans to vote,” ACLU Nebraska Executive Director Danielle Conrad said. “Nebraska is lucky to have honest election officials and hardworking poll workers who take their jobs seriously. Nebraska voters also take their voting rights and responsibilities seriously.
“Instead of wasting time and resources on divisive measures like this, Nebraska leaders should be working cooperatively to modernize our elections and improve technology and security so every eligible voter can vote and every eligible vote will count.”
Nebraskans are the Legislature’s “Second House” — and the Second House’s role is vital today. Call your senator now and encourage them to vote no on these irresponsible, costly and unnecessary proposals.