Citizens for Voter ID is hitting the streets statewide with the aim of turning the group’s voter ID petition into a ballot measure and, eventually, into Nebraska law.
The group is petitioning for a new amendment to the state constitution that would require qualified voters to present valid photo ID “in a manner specified by the Legislature” to vote.
The Nebraska Legislature has previously rejected voter ID measures seven times through filibuster.
State Sen. Mike Groene, who supports voter ID, told the Lincoln Journal Star that Nebraska’s unicameral Legislature makes it difficult to address major issues the majority of the state wants, which he said includes voter ID.
If the Citizens for Voter ID petition receives the required 125,000 signatures, it will be placed on the ballot in 2022. If it receives a majority of votes in that election, it will then be implemented by the Legislature.
The initiative is receiving pushback from Decline to Sign Nebraska — a coalition including Black Votes Matter, Civic Nebraska, League of Women Voters of Nebraska and Nebraska Poor People’s Campaign.
According to Civic Nebraska’s Decline to sign page, the voter ID petition “would severely restrict Nebraska voters by adding lengthy and repetitive steps, as well as new technicalities that would disqualify eligible voters.”
State Sen. Ben Hansen said voter ID is a key topic for his District 16 constituents. He said he supports the general philosophy of voter ID, assuming it’s implemented responsibly by the government.
“I think one of the fundamental things we have to do is make sure that we have integrity in our voting system,” he said. “I think this is one of the ways we can do it.”
John Cartier, director of voting rights for Civic Nebraska — a nonpartisan election watchdog group — said he directs volunteers who monitor polling places at election time to ensure voters are able to cast their ballot as well as lobbies for pro-voting rights policies in the state Legislature.
While he understands people’s concerns about election integrity, Cartier said “there’s never been a single conviction for a voter impersonation case” in Nebraska’s election history.
Jason Wendling, a junior history and political science double major and vice president of UNL College Republicans, said voter ID is a “very complex issue.” While many countries, such as Canada and Germany, employ voter ID in their elections, Wendling said, it could disenfranchise many voters if done incorrectly.
“Therefore, it is important to implement a system with plenty of time before elections for communities to ensure their citizens are able to register in time to vote,” he said in an email.
Wendling said UNL College Republicans has informed its members of organizations that support the voter ID petition, but the organization will not be officially supporting or opposing the petition.
Christina Gulseth, a junior history and political science double major and legislative chair of UNL Young Democrats, said that the last election was a turning point for voter ID.
“With a mainstream political party saying the election was stolen,” Gulseth said, the cause of voter ID gained strength.
After Georgia passed a new election law in April — which added voting restrictions — Gov. Pete Ricketts tweeted in support of the new law and told the Omaha World-Herald at the time that he would implement voter ID.
Taylor Gage, director of strategic communications for Ricketts, said in an email that the governor supports the current voter ID initiative, adding Nebraska “should always be looking for ways to improve election integrity.”