LINCOLN — Another year, another frustration for backers of requiring voter identification in Nebraska.
State lawmakers on Thursday fell short of cutting off debate and advancing a proposed voter ID constitutional amendment. The vote marks the eighth year in a row that voter ID legislation has been blocked.
State Sen. John Murante of Gretna, who introduced Legislative Resolution 1CA, said he is exploring the possibility of going directly to voters via an initiative petition drive.
“This is not the end of the discussion,” he said. “There will come a day when the issue is taken out of the hands of legislators.”
A second Murante proposal, which some dubbed “voter ID lite,” cleared first-round consideration later on Thursday after all of the voter identification provisions were stripped out.
As advanced, Legislative Bill 1065 would authorize counties to use electronic poll books. The new poll books would contain the same information as the current paper versions. The bill as introduced would have included photographs of voters in the electronic poll books for identification.
If he does pursue a petition drive on voter ID, Murante said he would be aiming for the November ballot this year.
LR 1CA would have gone on that same ballot if approved by the Legislature. Voters then would have been asked whether to require that voters show photo identification before casting a ballot.
The measure prompted heated arguments from both sides.
Murante argued that Nebraskans overwhelmingly support the idea as a way to ensure the security of elections. He blamed a “liberal obstructionist minority” for blocking every attempt at getting voter ID in Nebraska.
“I know I’m right. I know the people of Nebraska agree with me,” he said.
But Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln said the proposal addresses a nonexistent problem. He called voter impersonation “a myth” that politicians promote so they can suppress the vote.
“It’s comparable to unicorns destroying family farms,” he said.
Sen. Carol Blood of Bellevue said voter ID laws in other states have been shown to disenfranchise people, particularly senior citizens, while Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln said such laws result in elections that are “racist, costly and closed.”
LR 1CA did not spell out what kinds of identification would be accepted at polling places, whether some voters would be exempted and how the state would accommodate people who lack photo IDs.
Proposals in previous years would have required voters to present a current state driver’s license, state identification card or other government document bearing a photograph to cast a ballot. No ID would have been required to cast an early ballot or for elections held by mail.
Some proposals required the state to provide free identification cards for people. Others allowed people without IDs to cast provisional ballots.
LB 1065, as introduced, would have used digital photographs kept by the Department of Motor Vehicles to identify voters in counties that switched to electronic poll books.
Voters whose identity was questioned, based on that photograph, could have cast a provisional ballot. The ballot would be counted if that person went to the election office within seven days of the election and confirmed his or her identity.