Heated Debate Over Voter ID Bill

By: John Chapman, The Associated Press Email
By: John Chapman, The Associated Press Email

A state lawmaker is presenting a bill that would require Nebraska residents to show a government-issued photo identification when they vote.

Sen. Charlie Janssen of Fremont, a candidate for governor, pitched the measure Thursday to the Legislature's Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. His proposal would require voters to show government-issued photo identifications before casting a ballot. The bill would require the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue identification cards to qualified voters who don't have a driver's license or other IDs.

LB 381 would provide free state photo IDs to those who cannot afford one. The measure wouldn't apply to early voters or mail-in ballots, unless a person hasn't voted before.

Opponents argued during a hearing that the measure was a solution in search of a problem. The voting-rights group Nebraskans for Civic Reform promised a lawsuit if the bill passes.

Supporters say the bill would protect the integrity of the state voting system. Doug Kagan of Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom says anyone who is "too lazy" to get an ID probably wouldn't vote on Election Day. "When they've actively pursued and looked at voter fraud they have found it. It's just that a lot of county attorneys don't have time to handle it."

"If somebody was out there messing with the system and doing that here or there it would be caught at one point or the other,” said Adam Morfeld, Nebraskans for Civic Reform.

Lawmakers killed a similar measure last year with a filibuster. The debate raged for hours, with one state senator referring to the legislation as "Jim Crow Lite."

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