LINCOLN, Neb.Nebraska Exam) – Nebraska state senators are scrapping controversial parts of two proposed voter ID laws and writing something new and “narrower.”
The chairman of a key legislative committee says the Legislature’s next Nebraska voter ID proposal would not require a notary public to sign mail-in ballots, nor would it limit who can vote by mail.
Both submissions were subject Nebraska Examination Report about the difficulties that arise as a result of requiring a notary’s signature or limiting postal voting for rural, elderly and low-income voters.
The eight senators on the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee expect to begin meeting after lunch this week to draft a new voter ID bill, state Sen. Tom Brewer said.
He said he hopes the committee can settle on the new language this week or next and vote to send the new bill to committee sometime between mid-April and the end of April.
Brewer, who represents north-central Nebraska, said the committee took a more streamlined approach to avoid the quagmire of filibusters that have bogged down other bills this session. He shared the details.
“We’re keeping it narrowly limited to what people have approved,” he said.
Voters approved this language in November: “… before casting a ballot in any election, a qualified voter shall present a valid photo identification in the manner prescribed by law.”
ID verification for voting by mail
Brewer said House Bill 535 by state Sen. Julie Slama of Dunbar will be the vehicle for the new bill. He said he expected the committee’s work to begin on Tuesday.
The newly revised bill would likely allow spouses, guardians or other individuals to verify a voter’s identity before a ballot is mailed, he said.
The proposal does not seek to change the way people vote today, he said. House Bills 228 and 230 by state Sen. Steve Erdman of Bayard, among other changes, would have ended “no excuse” voting by mail for most Nebraskans. There would be exceptions for people who serve in the military or live in aged care.
The committee was awaiting legal opinions on some of the language in the Nebraska Attorney General’s previous motion, which Brewer said the committee received last week.
Slama described the attorney general’s feedback as “very valuable” and said he will use it to rework the basis of the committee’s proposal.
He said he plans to make sure the project works for government agencies, including the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Secretary of State’s Office.
He agreed with Brewer that the bill should be limited and not become a Christmas tree bill that would make it harder to pass.
“The main challenge is to approve the framework that Nebraska voters overwhelmingly authorized last year,” he said. “Language doesn’t exist yet.”
Voting rights advocates are hopeful
A member of the committee, state Sen. Danielle Conrad of Lincoln, said she was encouraged by Brewer and the committee’s willingness to accept realistic criticism of previous proposals.
The committee, he said, is working to identify “the best models for our sister states that fulfill the will of the people but minimize voter pressure.”
“I hope we can put our heads together and find the right path,” Conrad said. “And if we want to get it done this year, we have to do it in a way that minimizes the opposition.”
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