Section I-22 of the Nebraska Constitution provides “all elections shall be free,” and that “there shall be no hindrance or impediment to the right of a qualified voter to exercise the elective franchise.”
Nebraska has a commendable record of carefully improving the options for all citizens to vote, in-person and by-mail, along with needed security measures. Honesty, integrity and accessibility have been hallmarks of our state voting process, including:
1. Maintaining a system of experienced county officials and over 5,000 trained volunteer poll workers to conduct elections with close supervision by the Secretary of State.
2. Moving in 1998 from strict absentee voting for cause to by-mail voting available to all registered voters upon written request. By-mail voting soared from 3% to over 20% in a few years, generally averages 25% in statewide elections and rose to 75% in 2020 due to the pandemic.
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3. Moving from county hand-count ballot elections to county optical scan count ballot elections in 2006 with an error rate of near zero. Optical scan equipment must be tested and certified by a federal testing agency before being marketed. The 2012 certified equipment owned by the Secretary of State was purchased with state government funding.
4. Standardizing voter registration through the 2006 Secretary of State Election Management System (EMS), a web-based, password protected, and highly secured system, giving us a modern, statewide, voter registration process and database.
5. Allowing county election officials to conduct by-mail voting for all county subdivision “economic or candidate” issues, greatly increasing special election turnout.
6. Allowing county election officials to conduct by-mail only elections for all local, state or federal elections, which 11 counties have now adopted, all rural counties. Some 70 additional rural precincts have also been switched to by-mail for the convenience of the rural voters.
7. Our Nebraska Secretary of State, as chief election officer, has regularly reported only minimal instances of voter fraud; no election equipment scandals; and no fraudulent misconduct of county election officials to alter election results.
8. The 2020 Voter Photo ID amendment to Section I-22 of the Nebraska Constitution was adopted by a wide margin. I-22 (2) states “a qualified voter shall present valid photographic identification in a manner specified by the Legislature” that will ensure “an individual’s rights under this Constitution and the Constitution of the United States.” I-22(2) must be weighed against the provisions of Section I-22 that provides “all elections shall be free,” and that “there shall be no hindrance or impediment to the right of a qualified voter to exercise the elective franchise.”
Considering all of this, the Legislature should adopt a carefully crafted, balanced and focused set of rules for voter photo ID that impose the least “hindrance or impediment” to Nebraska voters. A strong public intent behind the amendment seemed clearly expressed by many citizens stating, ”We have to produce our driver’s license ID for so many other things, why not for voting?” This public sentiment was focused on a voter photo ID policy to prevent “impersonation fraud” where an imposter seeks to vote in another person’s name at a polling site.
Senator Slama’s LB 535 overly insists on conditions and restraints for both in-person and by-mail voting, far beyond the basic intent under the voter ID constitutional amendment, in a state whose citizens have a proud record of honest elections.
Here are just a few examples: types of voter ID allowed are too few; too many demands on voters with disabilities; too few DMV open hours and too few places to secure state IDs; unnecessary conditions for requesting an early by-mail ballot; and a demand for notarized signatures on by-mail ballot envelopes which are already double-checked (Where will 200,000 voters by-mail find the notary publics? Will they be local? Will voters have to pay for the service?).
LB 535 stands near the top-tier of restrictive provisions adopted by other states. It needs many amendments. A more measured and moderate framework will best abide with the Nebraska Constitution and its high standards to preserve our protected right to vote.
Senator Day’s LB 675 is a more measured and flexible approach to voter photo ID without imposing unneeded “hindrances and impediments” on our right to vote in-person, and, even more alarmingly, on our highly popular and secure by-mail voting system.
Maybe some purposeful blending can keep voter photo ID constitutional under Nebraska law and our election system fair and reasonable for access by all Nebraska registered voters.
OWH Midlands Voices January 2023
Andi Curry Grubb writes, "State representatives have more control over our bodies than we do — for the first time in five decades."
Jim Cavanaugh and Hal Daub write, "Douglas County has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to accomplish a remarkably good achievement that could change the lives of people with mental health disabilities and their families across our community."
Nichole Turgeon writes, "As 2023’s National Mentoring Month closes, a shortage of volunteers continues to affect the operations of many nonprofits ..."
Omaha native Paul Critchlow reflects on the letters he wrote to his service board while serving in Vietnam.
Kiril Domuschiev writes, "Food insecurity and hunger emergencies already strain global food systems ... In Nebraska, 188,080 people face hunger, including 64,190 children."
John Garlock writes, "For far too long, both parties have been fiscally irresponsible. The only time we hear elected officials discuss the national debt is on the campaign trail."
Robert Nefsky writes, "On a per capita basis, Nebraska’s annual public investment in the arts and humanities currently averages about $1.25, which consistently ranks around 12th in the nation."
Rebecca S. Fahrlander writes, "During this lengthy pandemic, I have often reflected on how my diagnosis and experience with cancer many years ago has helped me cope."
David D. Begley writes that wind and solar energy is not in Nebraskans' best interests.
U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse writes, "America needs more normal people. More Nebraskans getting involved in civics to box out the most divisive voices in politics."
Henry W. Burke writes, "Omaha’s proposed streetcar system defies common sense."
Joseph Giitter writes, "Downtown and midtown could become a contiguous urban core where people live, work and shop without relying on an automobile."
Nathan Leach writes, Norris "believed elected officials should represent the interests of their constituents well before that of political parties."
Mike Johanns writes, "Maintaining the land itself through uses such as renewable energy ensures conservation of the farmland for future generations."
Rebecca Firestone writes, "Policymakers can protect the state by ensuring new legislation focuses on proven initiatives that empower hardworking Nebraskans."
Matt Blomstedt writes, "This winter, Congress has a chance to pass critical child nutrition program updates that would better take care of students and support our schools."