Omnibus election bill clears first round
A clean-up bill that would make numerous changes to election law in Nebraska was amended to become an omnibus election measure and advanced to select file April 6.
LB843, as introduced by Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon, would make several minor changes to current law. Among other provisions, the bill would:
• prohibit electioneering within 200 feet of a ballot drop box;
• establish a deadline of 8 p.m. Central time or 7 p.m. Mountain time on Election Day for receipt of mail-in ballots;
• allow voters who cannot sign their name to use either a symbol or a signature stamp;
• allow county election commissioners to appoint certain election officials who live outside of the county if that county conducts elections exclusively by mail;
• require non-governmental organizations distributing voter registration forms or early ballot application forms to use those prescribed by the Nebraska secretary of state;
• allow an election commissioner or county clerk to remove a voter from the voter registry if they receive information from the state Department of Motor Vehicles that the voter has moved out of state; and
• establish procedures for removing a voter from a county’s early ballot request list.
A Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee amendment added provisions of the following bills:
• LB841, introduced by Brewer, which would allow emergency response providers and others participating in a mutual aid agreement who are responding to an emergency declaration by the president or governor to simultaneously register to vote and to request ballots for all elections in a calendar year;
• LB849, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Eliot Bostar, which would make election officials who neglect their duties or willfully engage in conduct prohibited under the state Election Act subject to a Class I misdemeanor;
• LB858, introduced by Sen. Robert Clements of Elmwood, which would prohibit the funding of elections by any source other than appropriations from the federal government, the state of Nebraska and Nebraska political subdivisions. In-kind contributions of food and beverages for poll workers or the use of buildings as polling or election training sites would not be prohibited;
• LB861, introduced by Omaha Sen. John McCollister, which would provide an optional field on candidate filing forms for the candidate’s email address;
• LB928, introduced by Sen. Rita Sanders of Bellevue, which would require televised political ads for certain statewide offices to be closed captioned and for a transcript of radio ads to be posted on a candidate’s campaign website; and
• LB1263, introduced by Clements, which would establish statewide standards for ballot drop boxes. Drop boxes would have to be securely anchored, locked, Americans with Disabilities Act compliant and opened only by a county election commissioner, county clerk or election official designated by the commissioner or clerk. Boxes would be opened for accepting ballots no later than the sixth Friday before a statewide election or the fourth Friday before a special election and emptied each business day.
Brewer, the committee chairperson, said the proposals were selected for the omnibus bill based on input from the Nebraska secretary of state, Civic Nebraska and the ACLU of Nebraska.
“We had more than 20 election bills in the government committee this year,” Brewer said. “Our committee worked hard to identify crisis items and issues.”
Lawmakers adopted the committee amendment on a 39-0 vote.
Brewer then offered an amendment, adopted 45-0, that would allow a private entity to donate funds intended to pay for election costs to the Nebraska secretary of state if those funds are appropriated by the Legislature. County clerks would be prohibited from soliciting or accepting such grants or donations.
Omaha Sen. John Cavanaugh offered an amendment, adopted 39-1, to include provisions of his LB733 that would prohibit foreign nationals from contributing to ballot question campaigns. Contributions from domestic subsidiaries of foreign nationals would be allowed under certain circumstances.
Senators advanced LB843 to select file on a 41-0.