Incoming Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen is gearing up for the latest push to require voters to show identification at the polls.
Voter ID was a major part of his first statewide election bid, in which he handily defeated Democrat Spencer Danner, who opposes voter ID laws.
But don’t expect an immediate proposal from Evnen — he said he plans to spend the next year looking at other states’ ID laws, drafting a proposal and building support for legislation that would be offered in the 2020 legislative session.
“Having integrity in your voting system is absolutely fundamental in our democracy,” Evnen said.
Evnen, an attorney, was elected in November to replace fellow Republican John Gale, who is retiring after 18 years in the office.
He’s likely to be more aggressive than his predecessor, who proposed a partial voter ID bill a few years ago but hasn’t made the issue a top priority.
Gale and other state election officials say they haven’t seen evidence of systemic voter fraud in the state.
Evnen said his plan would protect the citizens from potential voter fraud in a way that wouldn’t disenfranchise voters.
But the proposal is likely to face stiff opposition from legislators and others who say any voter ID requirement creates a new barrier to voting. Such proposals have failed eight times.
“I’ll vigorously oppose any voter identification legislation as I have the last four years,” said State Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln, a Democrat in the officially nonpartisan Legislature. Morfeld added that he doesn’t think there is enough support to pass a voter ID proposal.
Elections will be the most high-profile area Evnen oversees, but the secretary of state also is responsible for other functions including licensing businesses and greeting foreign dignitaries.
Evnen said he plans to continue much of Gale’s work and has asked all the appointed staff to stay on.
“The taxpayers of Nebraska are getting a lot of bang for their buck in the Secretary of State’s Office,” Evnen said.
On voting issues, Evnen’s first major task will be to work with the governor and the legislators to find money to replace the state’s aging voting equipment. Longer term, he said, he expects to continue Gale’s work in automating and improving the technology of the office’s functions.
Gale said he’s known Evnen for some time — both are attorneys and active in the Republican Party — and he expects Evnen to do well and oversee a smooth transition.
Evnen has made his first hire: Cindi Allen, an Ogallala farmer with lots of trade experience, who will head up the secretary of state’s international relations work.
Evnen said international trade — and being a “force multiplier” for Gov. Pete Ricketts’ efforts — is a major priority of his.
Evnen will also sit on the powerful three-person Pardons Board with Ricketts and Attorney General Doug Peterson.
The board has the ability to issue pardons for those who’ve committed crimes and to decrease the sentence for a current inmate.
Evnen, who led the effort to reinstate the death penalty in Nebraska, said public safety will be his top priority when considering cases.
He is set to be sworn in on Jan. 10.