Nebraska’s Voter ID Bill Pulled from Legislative Agenda

A bill that would’ve required all voters to show a valid photo ID was pulled from the legislative agenda on Thursday, January 12.  According to the Omaha World-Herald article, Senator Charlie Janssen of Fremont, the one who introduced the bill, pulled it because he wanted “more time to counter misinformation from opponents.” This action came one day after Nebraskans for Civic Reform (NCR) sponsored a Lobby Day at the State Capital, in which approximately 85 people participated, representing 20 plus organizations from across Nebraska, including the HWC.  Lobby Day is way in which ordinary citizens are able to meet with state senators to discuss a particular issue and share with them their position.  It is typically followed by a press conference in order to share with the rest of the public the action that took place and the people’s position regarding the issue; at the press conference, Senator Brenda Council and representatives from the AARP, NAACP, and League of Women Voters all made their positions heard.

The bill, known as LB 239, would require all potential voters to show a valid government issued photo ID, which also means that it would have his/her current address.  However, opponents say the bill is unconstitutional and is against the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlawed discriminatory practices, such as literacy tests, which would inhibit someone’s right to vote and lead to the disenfranchisement of certain groups.  The bill’s opponents say it would impede upon 130,000 Nebraskans from voting, especially the elderly, disabled, minorities, and college students; these groups of people are less likely to have an ID that meets the bill’s requirements because they are highly mobile, cannot afford to change the address each time s/he moves, or does not have access or the ability to have proper ID and does not need it for any other purpose.  The only thing the bill would protect against would be voter impersonation, which the Nebraska Deputy State of Secretary, as well as Janssen himself, both testified that voter impersonation is not an issue.

As the participants went to talk with the senators in the Rotunda of the Capitol, the HWC, along with members from the League of Women Voters, spoke with Senator Rich Pahls from District 31.  As a member of the Government, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee, he said he voted the bill out of committee because he wanted to hear the debate on the floor.  However, when former Omaha Councilwoman Sylvia Wagner asked him, “Why? How will this bill help citizens of Nebraska?” Senator Pahls was speechless, stating that he would ask that question during the debate.

For many who come from Latin American countries, showing a photo ID is the requirement.  For example, when one turns 18 years old in Guatemala, s/he is sent a form in order to receive his/her voting card.  Yet, many of these countries have a history of voter impersonation or fraud; even with the use of IDs, fraud or impersonation still occur (but perhaps more in the sense of buying votes).

In the end, it appears as if Lobby Day has helped to cool the waters.  However, the battle is not over, as Senator Janssen has the opportunity to once again bring it up on the floor for debate, but not without a fight.