Nebraska voter ID ballot drive begins gathering signatures

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A campaign to require a government-issued photo identification to vote in Nebraska has started collecting signatures to place the issue on the 2022 general election ballot.

Citizens for Voter ID said it started gathering signatures Thursday. State lawmakers have repeatedly rejected attempts to pass a voter identification law, prompting campaign organizers to seek voter approval for a state constitutional amendment.

“The people of Nebraska are often referred to as the second house and our committee is making sure that their voice is heard over those of the special interests with influence in the Capitol,” said Republican state Sen. Julie Slama, of Sterling, one of the petition sponsors.

If the measure passes, lawmakers in the officially nonpartisan Legislature would have to determine details about the policy, including what would count as valid identification. They would also need to decide how the law would apply to people who vote by mail and how the state would provide free IDs to those who don’t have one.

The push in Nebraska follows other conservative states that have enacted ID requirements to vote at the polls, even though there’s scant evidence of fraudulent voting. Some states have started targeting mail-in ballots as well, including Florida and Georgia. Nebraska is one of 14 states, plus the District of Columbia, which don’t impose any identification requirement to vote.

For those that have, the requirements vary. Some states mandate photo identifications, while others allow non-photo identifications and still others offer alternatives to an ID card, such as having a poll worker vouch for the voter.

In Nebraska, petition circulators need to collect signatures from 10% of registered state voters, or about 124,000 people. They also must gather signatures from at least 5% of the registered voters in 38 of Nebraska’s 93 counties — a requirement designed to ensure that some signers are from rural areas.

Meanwhile, the voting-rights advocacy group Civic Nebraska plans to spearhead a “Decline to Sign” campaign to discourage people from signing. The group, founded and directed by Democratic state Sen. Adam Morfeld, of Lincoln, argues that the proposal would make it harder to vote and cost the state money to implement.

“Every Nebraskan who cherishes our state’s motto of ‘Equality Before the Law’ should be seriously troubled,” the group said in a statement.

The Nebraska Republican Party has called for a state voter identification, while the Nebraska Democratic Party has voiced opposition.

The other sponsors of the measure are Nebraska Republican Party National Chairwoman Lydia Brasch, a former state senator, and Nancy McCabe of Omaha, a former chairwoman of the Douglas County Republican Party.

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