Nebraska voter ID debate rages in committee hearing - Omaha.com
Published Friday, March 8, 2013 at 10:25 am / Updated at 10:34 am
Nebraska voter ID debate rages in committee hearing

LINCOLN (AP) — Opponents of a voter identification bill threatened a lawsuit Thursday if Nebraska lawmakers approve it, while supporters cast the measure as a preventive effort to protect against voter fraud.

The issue triggered a heated debate during a legislative hearing, where opponents outnumbered supporters by a nearly 5-to-1 margin. Some compared the bill to poll taxes levied in the post-Civil War South to keep minorities from voting. The head of a Nebraska taxpayers' group argued that any person who was "too lazy" to request a free state-issued ID probably wouldn't vote on Election Day.

Sen. Charlie Janssen of Fremont, a Republican candidate for governor, introduced the bill. He's tried similar measures several times, with last year's attempt making it to the floor after supporters failed to overcome an eight-hour filibuster.

Voter ID, an issue throughout the nation's statehouses, is trumpeted by Republicans as a way to prevent voter fraud, while Democrats call it a political ploy to suppress voters who may not have proper identification, particularly groups that typically vote Democratic.

No cases of voter fraud have been reported in Nebraska. The bill would entitle voters without a driver's license to a free, state-issued identification card. The Department of Motor Vehicles would give free cards to voters who are indigent, and voters without IDs would still be allowed to cast provisional ballots.

Janssen, a former U.S. Navy rescue swimmer, said he cast his first vote while serving in the Persian Gulf.

"I'd hate to think that vote was wiped out by someone committing voter fraud," he told the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.

Nebraskans for Civic Reform, a voting rights group, promised to sue the state if the bill passes. The group's executive director, Adam Morfeld, said the bill was unconstitutional and would trigger an "expensive and unnecessary" legal fight involving a problem that doesn't exist.

"I personally believe, and other courts have found in this in the past, that there has to be a compelling state interest to impose a burden on a constitutional right," Morfeld said. "For there to be a compelling state interest, there has an actual problem — an identifiable one."

If the measure passes, Nebraska would join 33 other states that have enacted voter identification laws. Sixteen states now request or require photo IDs. Seventeen states require IDs, but not necessarily ones that include photographs.

Janssen pointed to Nebraska statistics that show 98 percent of registered voters already have a state-issued ID.

The committee took no action on the bill Thursday. A similar bill made it to the floor last year, but supporters fell short of the votes they needed to end legislative debate.

Several Nebraska taxpayer groups spoke in support of the bill, saying the bill didn't pose any major hurdles for legal voters.

"Those who are too lazy to obtain a photo ID are probably too lazy to go to the poll on Election Day," said Doug Kagan, head of the group Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom.

Julie Condon, co-founder of Western Nebraska Citizen's Caucus in Ogallala, said the bill would ensure that non-citizens don't vote.

"Every time a non-citizen votes, they are taking away the votes of a citizen," she said.

Former state Sen. Brenda Council of Omaha, a leading figure in last year's voter ID filibuster, said the bill fails to address mail-in voting, which has been the main source of voter fraud in the small handful of cases reported nationwide.

"It's very clear that the true intent of (the bill) is voter suppression," said Council, who had represented a minority-heavy district in north Omaha.

The bill imposes "a restrictive and unnecessary" mandate for voters and would increase the workload of overburdened poll workers, Rebecca Gould, executive director of the group Nebraska Appleseed, said. She also said the measure undermines democracy and could hinder the voting rights of seniors, students and those with low incomes and disabilities.

Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


More Legislature coverage, resources

Meet your senators

• Map: Find your senator

More Legislature coverage

The State Line: World-Herald Legislature blog

New public employee pay data: Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy Counties, plus utilities
Nebrasks health officials to advertise jobs via drive-thru
Coral Walker named Omaha police officer of the year
A recap of what got done — and what didn't — in the 2014 legislative session
'The war is not over,' Chambers says, but legislative session about is
Sarah Palin, Mike Lee coming to Nebraska for Ben Sasse rally
Prescription drug drop-off is April 26
Database: How much did Medicare pay your doctor?
Rather than doing $250K in repairs, owner who lives in lot behind 94-year-old house in Dundee razes it
PAC funded by Senate candidate Ben Sasse's great-uncle releases Shane Osborn attack ad
Teen killed at Gallagher Park was shot in head as he sat in SUV, friend who was wounded says
NB 30th Street lane closed
State Patrol, Omaha police conduct vehicle inspections
After all his bluster and bravado in the courtroom, Nikko Jenkins found guilty of 4 murders
Bernie Kanger formally promoted to Omaha fire chief
U.S. House incumbents have deeper pockets than their challengers
Nancy's Almanac, April 17, 2014: Trees save money
Ex-Iowan behind landmark free speech case recounts story in Bellevue
Gov. Heineman signs water bill; sponsor calls it 'landmark legislation'
New UNO center strengthens ties between campus, community
Senate candidate Shane Osborn to include anti-tax activist Norquist in telephone town hall
Kelly: New $24M UNO center embodies spirit of newlywed crash victim
High school slam poets don't just recite verses, 'they leave their hearts beating on the stage'
Attorney: Man accused of trying to open plane's door needs psychiatric evaluation
49-year-old sentenced to 40-50 years for attempted sex assault of child
< >
COLUMNISTS »
Breaking Brad: At least my kid never got stuck inside a claw machine
We need a new rule in Lincoln. If your kid is discovered inside the claw machine at a bowling alley, you are forever barred from being nominated for "Mother of the Year."
Breaking Brad: How many MECA board members can we put in a luxury suite?
As a stunt at the Blue Man Group show, MECA board members are going to see how many people they can stuff into one luxury suite.
Kelly: Creighton's McDermotts put good faces on an Omaha tradition
A comical roast Wednesday night in Omaha brought fans of Creighton basketball laughter by the bucketful. This time it was McJokes, not McBuckets, that entertained the Bluejay crowd.
Kelly: New $24M UNO center embodies spirit of newlywed crash victim
Jessica Lutton Bedient was killed by a drunken driver at age 26 in 2010. Thursday, the widowed husband and other family members will gather with others at the University of Nebraska at Omaha to dedicate a permanent memorial to Jessica.
Breaking Brad: How much would you pay for a corn dog?
The Arizona Diamondbacks have a new concession item: a $25 corn dog. For that kind of money, it should be stuffed with Bitcoin.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
Dr. Welbes Natural Health Clinic
$129 for 2 LipoLaser Sessions with Additional Complimentary Services ($605 value)
Buy Now
PHOTO GALLERIES »
< >
SPOTLIGHT »
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
WORLD-HERALD ALERTS »
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for Omaha.com's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »