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Nebraska lawmakers kill voter ID amendment proposal


LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — An effort to amend the Nebraska constitution to require voters to present photo IDs is dead for the year after supporters failed to end an expected filibuster.

The measure’s sponsor, Sen. John Murante of Gretna, said he intends to travel Nebraska during the next eight months to gather statewide support. He’s not ruling out asking Nebraska residents to amend the constitution through a ballot initiative. He said voters overwhelmingly support voter ID requirements to restore faith in the election process.

Murante also is considering a run for Nebraska secretary of state and said he intends to announce a decision within the next few weeks.

“We have a problem with voter confidence in our country,” Murante said. “You don’t have to take my word for it. Look at the 2016 election.”

As a candidate, President Donald Trump often claimed the presidential election was “rigged.” He has since repeated debunked claims that he lost the popular vote because of 3 million illegal votes.

Murante said there is “no insignificant amount of voter fraud,” but reports are rare. Of the more than 860,000 Nebraska residents who voted in the 2016 general election, two men in Dawson County are being prosecuted for allegedly voting twice. And one man was convicted for voting in both Kansas and Nebraska during the 2012 election, when more than 800,000 people voted in Nebraska.

Those isolated incidents wouldn’t have been prevented by voter ID laws, said Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln. Everyone would know if voters were being impersonated, he said.

“There isn’t a problem with voter impersonation,” Morfeld said. “We should spend our time focusing on problems that actually exist.”

Stiff penalties and a low likelihood of affecting an election mean there’s no incentive for voter fraud, said Sen. Carol Blood of Bellevue. People convicted of felony voter fraud face prison time, fines and losing their right to vote for two years after their sentence, because lawmakers failed yesterday to overturn a veto of a bill that would have eliminated the two-year waiting period.

But requiring photo IDs at the polls could stop thousands of Nebraska residents from voting and sway elections, Blood said.

“Voting is a right,” she said. “The people in my district have fought for you to have this right, and this is an insult to them and their families.”

People of color, low-income individuals, the elderly and people with disabilities would be most affected by a voter ID requirement, said Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha. He said courts have struck down voter ID laws in other states since 2006 because of blatant and obvious disenfranchisement.

“Clearly this law is not needed,” he said. “Clearly this law disenfranchises.”

Murante acknowledged other states have used voter ID laws to suppress voters but said Nebraska could do better. He said any law must contain protections to ensure registered voters are not turned away.

“I do not and will not support legislation which inhibits the rights of any voters, including minority voters, to vote,” he said.

But Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha argued that amending the state’s constitution to require voter ID tells black people who were killed for trying to vote that they’re not welcome in the state.

“This proposal is an affront to a constitution,” Chambers said. “It clutters it. It degrades it. It demeans the dignity of that document.”

Iowa and Arkansas passed strict photo ID laws this year, joining Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin.


Follow Julia Shumway on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JMShumway

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