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Nebraska's election chief pushes voter ID proposal, but opponents push back

Nebraska's election chief pushes voter ID proposal, but opponents push back

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2018 general election

A line of voters awaits the opening of the polling place at Lincoln's Redeemer Lutheran Church in 2018. 

Nebraska's top election official Wednesday called for the state to require voter identification as a means to prevent fraud in elections.

Secretary of State Bob Evnen said there has been little evidence of voter fraud in the state. But he described a proposed constitutional amendment as "an ounce of prevention" to help Nebraska stay ahead of potential problems and to bolster public confidence in elections. 

"We have to make sure that it’s easy to vote and hard to cheat," he told members of the Legislature's Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.

Evnen urged the committee to advance an amended version of LR3CA, introduced by State Sen. Julie Slama of Peru. 

If approved by voters, the measure would amend the state constitution to require that voters present "valid photographic identification" to a poll worker before being allowed to cast a ballot.

Evnen acknowledged that providing free IDs would carry a cost. But he said it should not be difficult to do, given that he estimated 98% of registered voters already have a driver's license, state ID card or other acceptable form of ID. He even suggested that he could grab a camera and visit people where they live to provide the IDs.

"I think it would be easy to implement," he said, disputing claims that ID requirements would block some people from being able to vote.

But the measure met with stiff opposition, as it has every time the issue has been raised in the Legislature. 

Preston Love Jr., founder of Black Votes Matter, said voter ID requirements are among the latest "impediments" to voting for Black people, a list that historically included poll taxes and literacy tests. He noted that the push for voter ID laws began after Barack Obama, a Black man, was elected president.

He countered arguments that small numbers of fraudulent votes can determine some close elections, saying that suppressing even small numbers of votes would have the same effect.

Lazaro Spindola, executive director of the Latino American Commission, said he has had to show an ID to vote — in Venezuela. He argued that voter ID requirements would not help voter confidence, which has been shaken by allegations of vote manipulation, not by concerns about voter impersonation.

Others described the difficulties that some people face in obtaining IDs and warned that IDs can be faked. 

Sheri St. Clair, speaking for the League of Women Voters of Nebraska, told of her mother, who is in her 90s but still votes regularly. She said her mother has not driven for a number of years and has difficulty getting around because she has to use a wheelchair, so she would have difficulty getting somewhere to obtain an ID.

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