At Legislature hearing on voter ID bills, both sides say Nebraskans agree with them

February 10, 2018 GMT

LINCOLN — Opponents and supporters both claimed to have the Nebraska people on their side as a familiar debate on voter ID was renewed at the Nebraska Legislature.

Sen. John Murante of Gretna, wearing an “I ♥ secure elections” pin, on Thursday told the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee that he’s talked to people all over the state about requiring citizens to show ID before voting.

“The people of Nebraska don’t understand what the holdup is,” Murante said. “They do not understand how showing identification in so many parts of their lives ... has some sort of repressive effect in this instance.”

Individuals and advocacy groups showed up to disagree with the senator during a hearing that featured more opponents than supporters.

Opponents said voter ID bills solve a problem that doesn’t exist, put an undue burden on those with disabilities and discourage others from going to the polls on Election Day.

“We’ve been fighting voter ID laws for 10 years now,” said John Cartier, director of voting rights for Civic Nebraska.

“I think people have been loud and clear we do not want this,” he said. “There is not enough of an evidentiary showing it will make our elections more secure while not disenfranchising a single Nebraskan from voting.”

Murante introduced a trio of bills this session related to voter identification. Thursday’s hearing focused on Legislative Bills 1066 and 1064.

Murante, a GOP candidate for state treasurer, has previously introduced bills related to voter ID, including a constitutional amendment last year that failed to overcome a filibuster.

Murante said that when he introduced past voter ID bills, there were questions about how voter ID would work in the state. LB 1066 was modeled on voter ID bills passed by other states that have withstood constitutional challenges.

Under LB 1066, Nebraskans would be required to provide photo ID to vote. Accepted forms of ID would include a driver’s license, an ID issued by a state college or university, a passport or a military ID.

The bill would also require the secretary of state to provide IDs, with the cost covered by the state.

The Secretary of State’s Office estimated that the initial cost of providing the IDs would be about $3 million — an estimate Murante said he thought was high.

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, who recently helped implement voter ID laws in his state, told the committee that initial estimates suggested that it would cost $4 million to $5 million in his more populated state.

He said so far, the state is on course to spend $1.5 million in its first year of using voter IDs.

Any cost was too high for several opponents, who said the legislation would marginalize citizens.

“Strict voter ID laws have prevented patriotic citizens, including members of the military, students, the elderly and their families, from exercising their right to vote,” said Spencer Danner, a Democrat running for secretary of state.

“The integrity of our democracy depends on all eligible Nebraskans having the opportunity to use their right to vote,” he said.

The committee also heard testimony on LB 1064, which would require the secretary of state to check the citizenship status of registered voters in a federal database.

The cost of the bill was expected to be $1.6 million, but Murante on Thursday offered an amendment to the bill that would use checks already done by the Department of Motor Vehicles to eliminate the cost.

The committee took no action on the bills Thursday.