When Nebraskans went to the polls last November, nearly two-thirds of voters decided to amend Nebraska’s Constitution to require people to present a valid photo identification before casting a vote in future elections. To implement the amendment, Nebraska’s legislature recently passed a law setting forth the exact voter ID requirements and striking a proper balance between ensuring election integrity and enabling citizens to freely exercise their right to vote.
In an era when noncitizen voting gains currency as a serious proposal and when tech mavens spend millions lobbying to make voting as banal as sending a “like” on their social media platforms, it was heartening to see that this traditional means of safeguarding the integrity of elections remains popular with voters.
Still, after the voters spoke in November, there was work to be done. The newly adopted amendment left to the state’s legislature the task of determining how the voters’ will would be implemented. And good intentions, like those the amendment expressed, never suffice to ensure good outcomes.
Fortunately, the bill proposed by state Sen. Tom Brewer, which was passed by a vote of 38-1 in Nebraska’s unicameral legislature and signed into law by Republican Gov. Jim Pillen on June 2nd, largely delivered on the twin promises of election security and accessibility.
The law mandates that in any election, a person who appears at the polls to vote must first show a valid photo ID before he or she casts a ballot. Those choosing to vote by mail are obliged to provide either a copy of their photo ID or the number from their state driver’s license or state ID card with their ballot envelope. The law wisely prevents voters from signing an affidavit in lieu of providing a photo ID, a fraud-prone practice allowed in some states.
Finally, the law permits those who appear at the polls without the requisite ID to cast a provisional ballot, which ballot officials will count only if the voter returns on or before the Tuesday following the election to provide the necessary photo ID.
Narrow exceptions exist for voters with religious objections to being photographed and those with a recognized impediment. Collectively, these changes enable election officials to authenticate the identity of each person and ensure that only eligible voters are casting ballots.
To temper concerns about the ID requirement limiting ballot access for some, Nebraska’s law states that no fee will be charged to citizens seeking a state-issued photo ID for voting purposes. Nebraska thus eliminated any financial burden that might have fallen on voters needing to comply with the new law.
The Heritage Foundation tracks laws like Nebraska’s on its Election Integrity Scorecard, which ranks all 50 states and the District of Columbia based on 48 criteria reflecting best practices for administering free and fair elections. Prior to this law, Nebraska ranked 41st with a total score of 47 out of 100 possible points—among the lowest scores in the nation. The state earned not a single point in the category “Voter ID Implementation.”
With its latest law and the blessing of its voters, Nebraska now earns all 20 points in that category, bringing the state’s total score to a more respectable 67 points and putting it in sole possession of 18th place overall.
This is a great improvement and a testament to the good work legislators can do when they faithfully heed the electorate’s concerns.
While the new law is a significant accomplishment, the broader cause of election integrity offers other opportunities for voters and legislators alike. The need to keep voter rolls accurate, to manage the chain of custody for mail-in ballots, and to limit opportunities for vote harvesting by unscrupulous campaign workers are all areas where Nebraskans could apply their improving energies in the next legislative session in 2024.
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