Voter ID requirement proposed

The Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee heard testimony March 7 on a bill that would require voters to provide photographic identification before casting their ballot.

Under LB381, introduced by Fremont Sen. Charlie Janssen, all voters would be required to present a government-issued photographic identification card before voting in any election. Early voters or those casting a ballot in an election held by mail would not be required to show identification unless it is their first time voting.

Janssen said his bill is strongly supported by a majority of Nebraskans.

“Voter ID would further protect the integrity and reliability of our elections,” he said. “This would ensure citizens’ confidence in our election process and that all voters’ rights are protected.”

The bill directs the state Department of Motor Vehicles to offer a state identification card at no cost to any voter if they indicate they are indigent. A voter who does not furnish a photographic identification card would be permitted to cast a provisional ballot.

Susan Gumm of Omaha testified in support of the bill. She said showing identification should be a basic requirement for secure elections.

“It’s not unreasonable to require photo identification to protect our most important privilege of citizenship,” Gumm said. “We must be proactive rather than reactive.”

Ken Mass, representing the Nebraska AFL-CIO, opposed the measure. He said current election laws that do not contain strict photographic identification requirements have proven to be effective.

“Impediments to voting rights cause massive disenfranchisement and voter suppression,” he said. “They threaten our democracy.”

Mark Vasina, president of Nebraskans for Peace, said the bill would unfairly target specific demographics unlikely to have current photographic identification.

“Laws such as this are being urged in state legislatures across the nation to suppress the votes of the young, elderly and poor — people who are more likely to vote for candidates who are not Republicans,” he said.

Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale said in written neutral testimony that while many Nebraskans identify voter fraud as a significant problem, he felt the provisions set forth in LB381 could be too restrictive.

“Since we have not experienced any systemic fraud in Nebraska, despite some occasional and isolated incidents, I’m not sure the strict standards of LB381 and the costs involved are necessarily the best answer for Nebraska,” he wrote.

The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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