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Voter ID, minimum wage petitions make Nebraska's November ballot

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The latest attempt to legalize medical marijuana in Nebraska will not make it onto the general election ballot.

LINCOLN — Nebraskans will decide this November about requiring people to present identification to vote and about raising the state’s minimum wage.

Secretary of State Bob Evnen announced Tuesday that both petitions had garnered enough signatures to qualify for the general election ballot.

“After careful review by our counties, I can confirm that the statutory requirements for valid signatures have been met by both the voter ID and the minimum wage initiatives,” he said. “I have reviewed the initiatives, and both are in compliance with the law.”

The Nebraska Constitution requires proposed constitutional amendments, such as the voter ID proposal, to collect valid signatures from 10% of registered voters. Evnen said the measure had 136,458 valid signatures, well above the 123,966 signatures needed to go before voters.

The proposal also met the State Constitution’s geographic distribution requirement. Citizens for Voter ID collected valid signatures from at least 5% of registered voters in 76 of Nebraska’s 93 counties, well above the 38-county requirement.

If approved, the voter ID measure would require future Nebraska voters to provide a valid photo ID before casting their ballot. Details about the types of identification that would be acceptable and about how the requirement would apply to mail-in ballots would be determined by state lawmakers in follow-up legislation.

State Sen. Julie Slama of Dunbar, who led the petition drive, said she was proud of the work by supporters, donors and volunteers to get the measure on the ballot.

“It is very clear, as evidenced by the enthusiasm we encountered as Nebraskans signed this petition, that voters care about election security and they want voter ID in Nebraska,” she said. “I am thrilled voters will have the ability to vote in November to keep our elections free and fair.”

Heather Engdahl, voting rights director at Civic Nebraska, said she was disappointed that the petition qualified for the ballot. But she said opponents will be mounting a campaign to defeat the voter ID measure, which she said would unnecessarily disenfranchise Nebraska voters who lack photo identification.

“It’s extremely important that we protect voting rights during a time where there is such an attack on our democracy and right to vote,” she said.

The minimum wage measure, which proposes a new state law, needed at least 86,776 valid signatures, which is 7% of registered voters. The petition had had 97,245 verified valid signatures and met the 5% threshold in 44 counties.

If passed by voters, the proposal would raise the state’s minimum wage in four annual steps. It would increase from the current $9 per hour to $10.50 per hour on Jan. 1, eventually reaching $15 per hour by 2026. The measure also would provide for annual cost of living increases, starting in 2027.

Sen. Terrell McKinney of Omaha, a leader in the petition drive, said he was happy to see the initiative qualify for the ballot. Now moving into campaigning for the general election, he said his focus will be getting the word out to voters that they can weigh in on the issue come November.

McKinney said he was confident that if enough voters know that the initiative is on the ballot, it will pass. He described the proposed plan to steadily increase wages over several years as “a reasonable approach.”

Nebraska Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, a group of business owners, called Tuesday’s announcement “good news.” The group said that gradually raising the minimum wage would bolster local businesses and the economy.

Voters passed a similar ballot initiative in 2014 to boost the Nebraska minimum wage above the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour.

Neither the 2014 measure nor the current proposal would change the minimum wage for workers who get tips, because the State Constitution limits ballot measures to one subject. Changing the regular minimum wage and the tipped minimum wage would be considered two subjects.

Two weeks ago, Evnen announced that a pair of petitions seeking to legalize medical marijuana would not appear on the ballot. He said both petitions were about 10,000 signatures short of the total needed to go before voters, and they also fell short on the county distribution requirement.

Although he has agreed to review additional signatures on the medical marijuana petitions, his office said that, even if all the signatures under review were to be validated, the petitions still would fall short.

As required by state law, the Secretary of State’s Office will hold public hearings in each of Nebraska’s three congressional districts about the voter ID and minimum wage measures. The dates and locations of district hearings will be announced later.

The office also will distribute informational brochures to each county election office.

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