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Editorial: We don't need a Martian Invasion Readiness Act — or voter ID
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Lesson from Martian ‘Invasion’

Editorial: We don't need a Martian Invasion Readiness Act — or voter ID

Omaha’s city primary has a good chance to set a turnout record, following the pattern of last year’s state primary and November’s general election.

The World-Herald’s Reece Ristau last week reported that the Douglas County Election Commission had mailed about 76,600 early ballots to Omaha voters ahead of Tuesday’s primary — compared with 58,800 total voters in the 2017 primary.

This is good. Every American should want all eligible citizens to vote. Only if politicians know they will be held accountable to the will of the full electorate will they begin to move away from catering to the extremes that have polarized us.

The reason so many Omahans, Nebraskans and Americans are voting is because mail-in voting was made easier during the pandemic. Absentee ballot applications were sent to all registered voters in many states last year, including Nebraska, and publicity efforts raised awareness of early voting by mail or taking a completed ballot to a drop box.

Early voting is easy and it turns out that people like it.

So we have an opportunity to build on that and maintain increased participation.

Let’s not screw that up with partisan attempts to solve a purported problem that, in the real world, barely exists.

Allegations of voter fraud have been studied and studied, particularly since the razor-thin Florida presidential vote in 2000. What has always been found are isolated incidents of individuals breaking the law, a vote or two at a time.

Across the country, Republican state legislators are proposing a range of voting changes that would make it harder for some people to vote — for the most part, poorer people and, because of racial economic inequality, people of color.

Proposals in other states limit poll hours, add restrictions for absentee voting and limit drop boxes, among other anti-democratic steps. Reductions in poll hours and drop boxes disproportionally affect poor people, who, at best, have less flexibility to travel to a polling place or drop box, or to get away from work during shrinking hours to vote in person. In Nebraska, lawmakers are considering a constitutional amendment to require a state-approved photo ID to vote in person.

Poor people without a driver’s license obviously have less mobility to travel to a state office to obtain a photo ID and, even if it is free, often must pay to get documents required to get one.

Secretary of State Bob Evnen absurdly suggested that he could take a camera to the homes of people needing such IDs.

Let’s take voting seriously and not write into the Nebraska Constitution that the secretary of state will travel to Hemingford to take voter ID pictures. We have safeguards in place. To register to vote in Nebraska, a person must prove eligibility, which is reviewed before a name is added to the rolls. Signatures are on file to be checked, and ballots can be challenged.

Mail-in voting, heavily used during the pandemic and the driver of the record turnout we all should want, is particularly under attack by Republicans — without evidence of fraud. As we have said before, five states have long conducted their elections almost entirely by mail with no more indication of fraud than anywhere else.

The supposed reason for this rush of voter restrictions is rooted in the lie that massive fraud deprived Donald Trump of a second presidential term. Some — and importantly, not all — Republicans say that many Americans believe the lie, so we must restrict mail-in voting and make other changes.

People believe a lot of things that aren’t true, and we don’t change laws to address fantasies.

On Oct. 30, 1938, when Orson Wells performed “War of the Worlds” on CBS Radio, worried callers flooded police and radio station phone lines, believing Martians were invading Earth. Imagine what would have happened if the president of the United States, many members of his political party, three TV networks and dozens of partisan websites had repeated those claims for weeks. Just as lots of people today believe the 2020 voter fraud myth, a lot of people would have been convinced the Martians were among us.

That didn’t happen, and we didn’t try to pass Martian Invasion Readiness Acts across the country.

Let’s run with the good that came from the electoral mess of 2020 — which was increased attention to the Constitution and the electoral process, and increased interest in voting that, indications are, is sustaining itself.

People believe a lot of things that aren’t true, and we don’t change laws to address fantasies.

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