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Nebraska's election chief pushes voter ID proposal, but opponents push back

Nebraska's election chief pushes voter ID proposal, but opponents push back

LINCOLN — Nebraska’s top election official called Wednesday for the state to require voter identification as a means to prevent fraud in elections.

Secretary of State Bob Evnen said there has been little evidence of voter fraud in the state. But he described a proposed constitutional amendment as “an ounce of prevention” to help Nebraska stay ahead of potential problems and to bolster public confidence in elections.

“We have to make sure that it’s easy to vote and hard to cheat,” he told members of the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.

Evnen urged the committee to advance an amended version of Legislative Resolution 3CA, introduced by State Sen. Julie Slama of Peru.

If approved by voters, the measure would amend the Nebraska Constitution to require that voters present “valid photographic identification” to a poll worker before being allow to cast a ballot.

Under the proposal, the state would provide free identifications for those who do not have IDs. The measure would apply only to people voting in person, not those voting by mail, and would allow for legislatively approved exceptions to the ID requirements.

Evnen acknowledged that providing free IDs would carry a cost. But he said it should not be difficult to do, given that he estimated 98% of registered voters already have a driver’s license, state ID card or other acceptable form of ID. He even suggested that he could grab a camera and visit people where they live to provide the IDs.

“I think it would be easy to implement,” he said, disputing claims that ID requirements would block some people from being able to vote.

But the measure met with stiff opposition, as it has every time the issue has been raised in the Nebraska Legislature.

Opponents argued that voter ID requirements are unnecessary and would disenfranchise people, especially Black, Latino and other minority voters. People who are elderly or disabled also would be more likely to be affected.

Preston Love Jr., founder of Black Votes Matter, said voter ID requirements are among the latest “impediments” to voting for Black people, a list which historically included poll taxes and literacy tests. He noted that the push for voter ID laws began after Barack Obama, a Black man, was elected president.

He countered arguments that small numbers of fraudulent votes can determine some close elections, saying that suppressing even small numbers of votes would have the same effect.

“We don’t have a reason to do this other than some stretch in logic,” Love said.

Lazaro Spindola, executive director of the Latino American Commission, said he has had to show an ID to vote — in Venezuela. He argued that voter ID requirements would not help voter confidence, which has been shaken by allegations of vote manipulation, not by concerns about voter impersonation.

Others described the difficulties that some people face in obtaining IDs and warned that IDs can be faked.

Sheri St. Clair, speaking for the League of Women Voters of Nebraska, told of her mother, who is in her 90s but still votes regularly. She said her mother has not driven for a number of years and has difficulty getting around because she has to use a wheelchair, so she would have difficulty getting somewhere to obtain an ID.

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Martha Stoddard keeps legislators honest from The World-Herald's Lincoln bureau, where she covers news from the State Capitol. Follow her on Twitter @StoddardOWH. Phone: 402-670-2402

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