Opponents of Nebraska voter ID measure launch campaign

LINCOLN — Nebraska voting rights advocates on Monday kicked off their campaign against a ballot measure that would require people to show valid photographic identification before voting.

The measure, Initiative 432, qualified for November’s general election ballot through a successful petition drive. It is one of two initiatives on the ballot.

Monday, representatives from Nebraskans for Free and Fair Elections said the measure would be among the strictest voter ID provisions in the nation without making state elections any more secure.

“Initiative 432 is an extreme measure that will restrict access to voting for thousands of Nebraskans without reason,” said Heather Engdahl with Civic Nebraska.

If approved in November, Initiative 432 would amend the Nebraska Constitution to require that future voters provide a valid photo ID before casting their ballot. Supporters of the measure, who include Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and Secretary of State Bob Evnen, say it is necessary to improve the safety and security of Nebraska elections.

But Engdahl said the only type of voter fraud that the measure would address is people attempting to impersonate someone else, a crime that both supporters and opponents of the measure acknowledge has not been seen in Nebraska.

Meanwhile, an estimated 54,500 Nebraskans of voting age could be denied the right to vote because they lack a photo ID, she said. The number could be as high as 70,000, depending on what is considered a valid ID.

Engdahl said state lawmakers would have to determine the types of identification that would be acceptable by passing follow-up legislation. The ballot measure specifies that ID must be “valid” and “photographic.” It also specifies that the requirement to provide ID applies to “any election,” meaning that it would apply to mail-in ballots as well as those cast in person.

Preston Love Jr., a community organizer representing the Black Votes Matter group, said Initiative 432 represents the latest attempt to restrict voting in communities of color and among low-income Nebraskans, who are less likely to have the required IDs. He said such measures are a backlash to rising electoral power of Black voters.

“Don’t put Nebraska on the list of states that is doing these misinformation, nonsense and restrictive measures,” he said. “Just vote ‘no’ to this. See it for what it is.”

Engdahl said the coalition does not have the deep pockets needed for a major radio and television campaign. But members plan to spend the next several weeks reaching out to voters directly, through town hall events and through social media. They will be launching a series of videos this week featuring people who would be affected by a voter ID requirement.

Along with Civic Nebraska and Black Votes Matter, the Nebraskans for Free and Fair Elections coalition includes Nebraska Appleseed, the Nebraska Poor People’s Campaign, ACLU of Nebraska, the League of Women Voters and the Nebraska Civic Engagement Table.

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