Passing Initiative 432 will make it harder — not easier — for Nebraskans to vote in upcoming elections
By: Saavon Smalls and Gavin Geis, Common Cause Nebraska
That’s where Nebraska ranks in terms of voter participation, according to the recently released America Goes to the Polls 2020 report.
Part of why Nebraska ranks in the top half of the list is because it is not included in the 35 states with rigid voter ID laws that prevent significant populations from voting. However, that could all change after this year’s midterms with the passage of Initiative 432.
If passed, Initiative 432 would:
- Amend the state constitution to require a valid photo ID to vote, and
- Require the state legislature to specify what qualifies for photo ID, although voters have no way of knowing what qualifications they are being asked to vote for on Election Day.
To say that this measure would be a blow to our state democracy is an understatement.
It has been shown time and again that voter ID laws have a negative impact on marginalized communities. From communities of color to impoverished and disabled Nebraskans, getting access to a valid ID is an obstacle to their ability to perform this basic civic duty. Rural communities will also feel the impact of these new requirements since many county DMV offices are open infrequently and obtaining proper ID prior to an election will prove to be burdensome.
Additionally, ID laws don’t prevent claims that our elections are fraudulent like proponents argue. In states such as Michigan and Texas, 2020 election audits were still conducted, even though both states have voter ID laws.
Proponents of Initiative 432 have also claimed that showing an ID will strengthen the integrity of future elections. However, Nebraska has no history of voter fraud, a fact embraced by both our current and former secretaries of state (Nebraska’s chief elections officer).
Even more concerning, because the measure requires the state legislature to determine the exact voter ID rules, Nebraskans won’t know what specifically they’ll be voting on until the next legislative session. The initiative states that the ID must be a photo ID, meaning that legislators will decide what constitutes a valid photo ID. And with the current hyper-partisan environment of the unicameral, voices of countless Nebraskans could be ignored in the process, meaning many will be made to obtain a new form of identification.
On top of all that, the legislature will need to determine who pays for these new IDs. The law is clear: Requiring payment to vote is an illegal poll tax, so the state’s only legal option will be dipping into tax revenue to provide IDs for all of us. Ultimately, Nebraska’s taxpayers will foot the several million-dollar bill for an ID requirement that doesn’t solve a real problem.
Let’s be clear: Passing a voter ID measure will do nothing but create additional barriers between Nebraskans and the ballot box. As voters encounter additional barriers to cast our ballots, Nebraska is also poised to lose our positioning in the top half of states that make it easy to vote.
Voting is a fundamental right, one which our constitution protects broadly. Initiative 432 will restrict Nebraskans’ basic rights, and we’re calling on citizens to firmly reject that restriction.