Nebraska voters back higher minimum wage, voter ID measures

November 9, 2022 GMT
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Homer Wesson, right, votes at the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation at 3448 Evans Street on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, in Omaha, Neb. The birthplace of Malcolm X is located on the foundation's property. (Chris Machian/Omaha World-Herald via AP)
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Homer Wesson, right, votes at the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation at 3448 Evans Street on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, in Omaha, Neb. The birthplace of Malcolm X is located on the foundation's property. (Chris Machian/Omaha World-Herald via AP)

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska voters on Tuesday decided to significantly raise the state’s minimum wage over the next several years and require voters to provide government identification at polling places.

The wage measure will gradually increase the state’s minimum wage from the current $9 an hour to $15 an hour by 2026. The first increase would come in January when the minimum wage would go up to $10.50. Eight years ago, Nebraska voters overwhelmingly approved increasing the minimum wage to its current level.

In approving the pay measure, voters went against Gov. Pete Ricketts and some business groups who argued that wage levels should be determined by the market, not state law.

Supporters of the wage increase estimated that 150,000 Nebraska workers could wind up with bigger paychecks, but given that the state has one of the lowest unemployment rates and employers have had difficulty finding enough workers, many companies may already be paying more than the minimum wage.

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Both the pay measure and the one to require voter ID got onto the ballot as a result of signature-gathering campaigns. But voters didn’t have a chance this year to vote on a proposal to legalize medical marijuana in Nebraska because advocates failed to gather enough signatures.

Ricketts’ mother, Marlene Ricketts, was the main financial backer of the voter ID initiative after the GOP-controlled Legislature failed to pass such a measure in recent years. As a result of Tuesday’s vote, the state constitution will be amended to require people to show a government-issued photo identification when they vote. Lawmakers will work out the details of that requirement once they reconvene next year.

Nebraska has no history of widespread voter fraud, but supporters of the voter ID requirement said the law is needed to prevent possible future problems. Similar measures have been approved in a number of Republican-controlled states nationwide. Democrats argue that such voter ID laws are meant to discourage voter turnout by minorities and others who are less likely to have appropriate ID and tend to vote for Democrats.

Voters also supported a ballot measure that will help airports across the state attract more airlines and persuade existing airlines to offer new routes.

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The Legislature unanimously placed the airport measure on the ballot. It will allow organizations that operate airports to use airport revenue to encourage more commercial plane service by offering to guarantee a minimum amount of revenue to an airline during the first few months of new service at an airport.

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