Establishing a legal framework for the state’s new photo ID voting requirement, earlier restoration of felon voting rights and a state holiday honoring Malcolm X were among the measures considered by the Legislature this session.
Lawmakers passed a bill that implements the provisions of an initiative petition approved by voters in 2022 establishing a photo ID requirement to vote in Nebraska.
LB514, as originally introduced by Gordon Sen. Tom Brewer, would have served as the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee’s annual elections clean-up bill. The measure was gutted on general file and replaced with a committee voter ID proposal.
Among other provisions, LB514 lays out the requirements for a valid form of photographic identification, which includes a document issued by the state of Nebraska, an agency or a political subdivision of the state, the U.S. military, a Nebraska postsecondary educational institution or a recognized Native American tribe or band.
A hospital, assisted-living facility, nursing home or other skilled care facility record that includes a photo or digital image also will qualify.
The secretary of state’s office is required to provide a website dedicated to voter ID requirements and procedures and implement a public awareness campaign. No fee will be charged to Nebraska residents for an original, renewal or duplicate state ID card for voting purposes.
An individual without a photo ID may vote provisionally at the polls if they certify that they have a “reasonable impediment,” including a religious objection to being photographed or a situation that prevents them from obtaining a valid photo ID such as a disability or illness, lack of a birth certificate or the inability to obtain other required documents.
Ballots that do not meet the bill’s requirements can be validated through the election commissioner or county clerk’s office by providing missing information by the Tuesday following the election.
Voters who request to have a ballot mailed to them must provide a Nebraska driver’s license number, state ID card number or a photocopy of another valid photo ID with their request.
Lawmakers passed LB514 on a 38-1 vote and the measure took effect immediately.
An alternative photo ID proposal, sponsored by Dunbar Sen. Julie Slama, was advanced by the committee but was not scheduled for debate. Among other provisions, LB535, under an amendment brought by Slama to the bill’s public hearing, would require individuals requesting to vote by mail to provide notarized confirmation of a valid photo ID.
The committee heard a number of other proposals this session that would make changes to Nebraska’s election laws.
A measure sponsored by Omaha Sen. Justin Wayne that would allow Nebraskans convicted of a felony to have their voting rights restored sooner was advanced from committee but was not scheduled for debate.
LB20 would restore voting rights automatically upon completion of a felony sentence or probation. Currently, ex-felons must wait two years before being able to register to vote.
LB193, introduced by Hastings Sen. Steve Halloran, would prohibit any voting system or component from being purchased or used unless designed, manufactured, integrated and assembled in the U.S. from entities accredited by the U.S. Department of Defense.
Halloran also introduced LB808, which would permit election commissioners and county clerks to conduct a hand count for tabulating votes cast in any election. The bill also would allow an apparent loser at a general election to request and receive a hand recount.
LB228, introduced by Sen. Steve Erdman of Bayard, would eliminate voting by mail except for military personnel and those living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The bill also would establish primary and general election days as statewide holidays, stipulate that all ballots be counted at the precinct level on election day and limit early voting to in-person at either a county election or county clerk’s office.
Erdman also introduced LB230, which, among other provisions, would limit early voting to those who are “handicapped” or members of the armed forces or Nebraska National Guard.
LB457, sponsored by Bellevue Sen. Rick Holdcroft, would require video surveillance of voting areas and implementation of anti-counterfeiting ballot techniques, including a watermark, a holograph and other techniques used to protect U.S. paper currency.
The bill also would require that any vote scanning device or tabulating equipment be verified and certified by election officials to be incapable of executing any embedded code or triggers on scanned ballots.
Nebraska’s five Electoral College votes would be assigned to the statewide winner in presidential elections under LB764, sponsored by Central City Sen. Loren Lippincott. The bill would end Nebraska’s split system of awarding electoral votes, in place since 1991. Currently, the statewide winner receives two electoral votes and the winner of each of the state’s three congressional districts receives one electoral vote.
All six proposals remain in committee.
Provisions of a bill initially heard by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee were amended into an Urban Affairs Committee omnibus package and approved by lawmakers. LB474, introduced by Wayne, requires the state Game and Parks Commission to receive, rehabilitate and manage the Mayhew Cabin historical site in Nebraska City.
Other provisions of LB474 related to facility updates at the Fort Robinson historical site were successfully amended into the state budget package and approved this session.
A proposal from Gering Sen. Brian Hardin also was considered by the committee and became part of the state budget but subsequently was line-item vetoed by Gov. Jim Pillen.
LB712 would have transferred $10 million from the Cash Reserve Fund to provide grants to help panhandle communities prepare for an influx of contractors to the area to update the country’s aging ICBM missile system.
No override motion was offered.
A bill meant to enhance a state tuition support program for Nebraska National Guard members remains on select file.
The program, which provides a 100 percent undergraduate tuition credit to Nebraska National Guard members who enroll in any state-supported university, college, community college or accredited, nonprofit independent college, currently is capped at $900,000 annually.
As introduced, LB52, sponsored by Lippincott, would have raised the cap to $1 million. Lawmakers amended the bill to remove the cap entirely.
LB53, sponsored by Omaha Sen. Terrell McKinney would establish May 19 as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, Malcolm X Day in Nebraska. The committee advance the bill to general file but it was not scheduled for debate this session.
Also advanced by the committee was LB194, sponsored by Halloran, which would prohibit any state or political subdivision employee from enforcing any federal law regulating a firearm, firearm accessory or ammunition unless the measure also is codified in state law.
An individual in violation of the bill’s provisions would be subject to a fine of up to $3,000 for a first offense and a Class I misdemeanor for second or subsequent offenses. A political subdivision that adopts an ordinance in violation of the bill would be ineligible to receive state funds for one fiscal year.
LB194 remains on general file.
Under LB297, sponsored by Bellevue Sen. Rita Sanders, local and state government agencies could not compel a nonprofit organization to release the personal information of its members, supporters, volunteers or donors.
The bill’s provisions would not apply to legally required disclosures under the Nebraska Political Accountability and Disclosure Act or for use in criminal or civil investigations.
LB297 was advanced by the committee to general file but was not scheduled for debate this year.
Another proposal sponsored by Sanders remains in committee. LB2 would create a 14-member commission composed of individuals of Asian descent and appointed by the governor. The commission would coordinate programs and promote state and federal legislation beneficial to Asian Americans in Nebraska.