Cloture attempt on voter ID constitutional amendment fails

Senators rejected a cloture motion May 9 during first-round debate on a measure that would ask Nebraskans to decide whether voters must show identification at the polls.

<a href='http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist49' target='_blank' title='Link to the website of Sen. John Murante'>Sen. John Murante</a>
Sen. John Murante

LR1CA, introduced by Gretna Sen. John Murante, would place a proposed constitutional amendment on the November 2018 general election ballot. If approved, the amendment would require voters in Nebraska to present an ID containing a photograph or digital image prior to casting a ballot.

The Legislature would be tasked with determining the specifics of the voter ID requirement through enabling legislation. Murante said it would be possible to craft enabling legislation that would not suppress the state’s minority vote, while acknowledging that voter ID requirements historically have been enacted with the intention of targeting minority groups.

“It is an objective reality,” he said. “And to deny that these sorts of election laws have been used in the past to suppress minority votes would be to deny history.”

However, he said, America currently has a crisis of voter confidence and needs to demonstrate that steps are being taken to ensure that only those who are qualified to vote are casting ballots.

Lincoln Sen. Mike Hilgers supported the measure. Voter ID laws are not inherently discriminatory, he said, and in-person voter fraud needs to be guarded against. When barriers are low and incentives are high, he said, there is reason to believe that fraud has happened.

“We know that people will go to great ends to win elections legitimately or illegitimately,” Hilgers said, noting the hundreds of millions spent on U.S. elections.

Lincoln Sen. Adam Morfeld spoke in opposition, saying voter ID laws place an unnecessary burden on the elderly, veterans, low-income individuals and others. The secretary of state has stated that Nebraska’s elections are secure, he said, so there is no need to change the state’s constitution.

“We should spend our time focusing on problems that actually exist,” Morfeld said. “We should spend our resources on problems that actually exist.”

Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha offered a motion to indefinitely postpone the measure, saying the cost of implementing voter ID in Nebraska is not known – in part because the proposed constitutional amendment contains no specifics on what form it would take if approved.

Wayne said that a conservative estimate would put the cost of providing ID to approximately 160,000 people at $3.7 million. In addition, he said, the proposal would be caught up in court challenges because voters would not know what type of ID requirement they were authorizing.

“Any definition we come up with [in enabling legislation] will be litigated because voters will think that it’s just a driver license,” he said.

The motion failed on an 18-25 vote.

Murante then offered a motion to invoke cloture, or cease debate and vote on the measure. He said he would work over the interim to try and develop voter ID legislation that everyone in the state could support.

“I’m going to continue fighting to make sure our election systems are something that the people of Nebraska can be proud of and have confidence in,” Murante said.

The cloture motion failed on a vote of 26-17. A failed cloture motion results in debate on a proposal ceasing for the day. LR1CA is unlikely to be placed on the agenda again this session.

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