Voter ID bill dies in Legislature

Shadow and sunlight on Nebraska Capitol (Photo by Fred Knapp, NET News
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February 18, 2015 - 5:08pm

A proposal to require Nebraskans show photo IDs before voting died in the Legislature Wednesday.

It was at least the fourth time in the last five years a voter ID bill failed in the Legislature. This year’s version would have required voters to show a photo ID in order to vote.

Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte supported the idea. "What it actually does is protect Nebraskans right to vote as an American citizen. It protects your right to vote. It makes sure that those who do not have that right to vote -- do not follow the rules, are not citizens -- will not dilute or cancel out your vote," Groene said.

Sen. Brett Lindstrom of Omaha said the estimated $1 million dollar cost of implementing the bill was not worthwhile. "We don’t have any cases of actual in-person voter fraud in Nebraska. We have two cases of registration fraud that have been heard in the state – one in 2004 and one in 2010. But no cases of in-person voter fraud have occurred. So the question for me becomes ‘Does the cost offset the problem?’ And for me that answer is ‘No,’" Lindstrom said.

Sen. Tyson Larson of O’Neill, the bill’s lead sponsor, said the estimated expenses were for a good purpose. "That …provides an ID for any person in the state of Nebraska that doesn’t have one, and that’s a good thing," he said.

Opponents sometimes argue the cost of obtaining an ID could limit voting by poor voters, and that minority, older and disabled people are also less likely to have IDs. Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers accused supporters of aping a national partisan strategy. "This is a Republican move. It is part of a national strategy. And when the Legislature here follows behind, I call this a monkey-see, monkey-do action," he said.

Chambers moved to delay further consideration of the bill for the rest of the year. When senators first voted on Chamber’s motion, 24 voted in favor – one short of the majority needed in the 49-member Legislature. But then, Sen. Mark Kolterman of Seward changed his vote from "no" to "yes," effectively killing the bill.

Kolterman later offered a simple explanation for his switch. "I meant to vote ‘yes’ to begin with. I just made a mistake. And I wasn’t sure how to change it because I’m a new senator. So I turned around and asked Sen. Chambers ‘Can I change my vote?’ And he said ‘Yeah, just raise your hand,’" he said.

Kolterman added that he’s not convinced there is a problem. "I was against the bill from the very beginning simply because I don’t see a lot of fraud in the state voting system …(I) don’t see the need for a voter ID card," he said.

In the final tally, 12 Republicans joined 12 Democrats and one independent as the officially nonpartisan Legislature voted to put off any further consideration of the bill this year. All 15 of those voting against postponing the bill were Republicans.



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