Clarification: There are more than 650 bills slated for the state senate, not the ASUN senate.
On Wednesday, the Association of Students of the University of Nebraska passed a bill denouncing voter ID legislation in Nebraska.
It was a directive formed in response to Sen. Tyson Larson’s proposed voter ID bill (LB111), which would require voters in Nebraska to present a government-issued form of identification before voting.
Sen. Adam Morfeld, a former ASUN member himself, spoke during the open forum of Wednesday night’s ASUN senate meeting to encourage the approval of Government Bill 11, which formally declares ASUN’s opposition to LB111.
Passing this bill allows ASUN’s Government Liaison Committee to talk directly with Nebraska senators and lobby against proposed voter ID bills in the Nebraska legislature on the behalf of UNL students.
“ASUN has always been in opposition of voter ID and unnecessary governmental regulations on students’ rights to vote,” Morfeld said. “I know those laws seem very common sense on their face, but in their actual practice it really impacts young people and their ability to vote and be heard.”
Erin Cooper, chair of ASUN’s Government Liaison Committee, said the proposed voter ID legislation in the Nebraska senate could have a significant impact on students in Nebraska.
With more than 650 bills currently slated for the state senate this semester, Cooper recognized the issue as one of the GLC’s top priorities.
“As students, because we’re such a transient population,” Cooper said, “this bill would bring unnecessary barriers to the voting process and would infringe on students’ right to vote where they choose.”
Under LB111, voters would be required to present a valid government-issued photo ID with their registered address to be allowed to vote.
This would make voting difficult for out-of-state students, Morfeld explained, because if these students register to vote in Nebraska but do not have a valid Nebraska ID with their registered address, they will not be allowed to vote.
Though state ID cards would be issued free of charge, some opponents say it would require taxpayers to take on an additional and unnecessary expense.
Even for students with a valid Nebraska driver’s license, Cooper added, they would still need to provide a valid ID with a registered address in Lincoln in order to vote in Lincoln.
Otherwise students would have to return to their hometown to vote, Cooper said, which would prove impractical for many.
Larson defended the bill saying for students to be engaged citizens, they need to learn to take initiative.
“To say an ID is an obstacle to voters is ludicrous,” Larson said. “Students don’t seem to find an ID an obstacle on Friday and Saturday nights.”
Though similar voter ID bills have failed in the past, Larson expressed optimism that his bill would carry the support of other senators and defending the bill’s aim to protect the practice of voting in Nebraska.
Larson declined to cite any examples of voter fraud in Nebraska, saying it was not the issue.
“The goal of this bill is to protect the integrity of voting in Nebraska,” he said.
Among the chief concerns for ASUN representatives is the consequence of LB111’s policy on first-time voters.
Throughout the past year, Cooper said ASUN has helped register over 1,100 students in its efforts to promote civic engagement on campus.
“We want to protect students who want to have a say in the policies that affect their community and place of residence, as well as having an impact on who fills our government positions,” Cooper said. “And it can be frustrating when we’ve worked so hard to get students civically engaged, and then to have bills that could potentially have their voices silenced because of additional barriers. We want Nebraska senators to recognize us equally as voters and their constituents.”
Lani Hanson contributed to this report.