LINCOLN — A bill that would require voters to show government-issued photo identification is dead for this year.
Nebraska lawmakers voted 25-15 Wednesday on a motion to bracket — or table — Legislative Bill 111 until the end of the session. The vote ended what had promised to be a four-day filibuster.
State Sen. Tyson Larson of O’Neill, who introduced the measure, said he was disappointed. He promised to keep working on the issue and perhaps bring it up again next year.
LB 111 was similar to past proposals that failed in the face of filibusters or could not get out of committee. This year, the bill advanced easily out of a committee dominated by conservative Republicans and was taken up by a Legislature that moved to the right during the last election.
Still, it was clear the bill was in trouble when some Republican senators spoke against it.
Sen. Brett Lindstrom of Omaha said he didn’t believe the number of voter fraud cases justified the bill’s potential cost, which could have reached $1 million.
“In my mind, that money could better be used on property tax relief,” he said.
Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers kicked off the opposition on Tuesday, calling the proposal “treacherous,” “disingenuous” and “racist.”
He said the real aim of voter ID backers is to suppress the votes of black Nebraskans.
He said the bill follows a pattern that includes such events such as the closing of polling places in north Omaha during the 2012 election. The Douglas County election commissioner, a Republican, said the closings were done to cut costs.
Larson argued that his bill is needed to “protect the integrity and reliability of the election process.”
He said polls show strong support for voter ID laws among Nebraskans and that 16 other states now request or require photo identification to vote.
Even preventing one case of voter fraud is important, he argued.
Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte said the bill would ensure that only qualified voters cast ballots and that noncitizens do not vote.
“What’s wrong with being proud of being an American and showing an ID?” he asked.
Opponents responded that there have been no cases of voter fraud in Nebraska that could have been prevented with the bill at hand.
“I find it odd we’re sitting here today debating a fundamental and constitutional right with absolutely no evidence of a problem,” said Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln.
LB 111 would have required most Nebraska voters to present a current state driver’s license, state identification card or other government document bearing a photograph of the voter before casting a ballot.
The bill would not have required IDs for people who vote early or by mail. People who show up at the polls without the required ID could still vote if they cast a provisional ballot.
An amendment adopted by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee would have allowed county-issued voter registration acknowledgments to be accepted as identification.
The acknowledgments are cards or letters sent to people after they register or re-register. The acknowledgments do not have photographs.
The amendment also would allow people to get free state identification cards so they can vote.
Larson had proposed another amendment that would require voter IDs but allow Nebraskans to register to vote on Election Day.
He said the amendment represented an attempt to reach a middle ground with voter ID opponents.
He and other bill backers also proposed amendments that would have expanded the list of acceptable forms of photo identification.
Contact the writer: 402-473-9583, firstname.lastname@example.org