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Our Constitutional Right to Vote At Risk

If years of watching election returns with my Reagan-Republican dad taught me nothing else, it’s that voting is the most sacred part of our democracy. I remember haranguing my parents every presidential election, even at the tender age of seven, asking if they’d gone to the polls. I couldn’t vote, so bygod, I made sure the adults in my life did.

Voting is the ultimate fulfillment of the promise in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal.” I’ll never have the money to compete with Big Oil money in Congress or run endless ads that lie about how many jobs a pipeline will create, but my vote counts the same as Mitt Romney’s, Barack Obama’s, my Tea Party neighbor’s, my doctor’s and my dad’s. Poor, rich, pretty, ugly, conservative, liberal, working or unemployed–we each get one vote.

Leave it to State Senator Charlie Janssen to try and foul the sanctity of the ballot box with partisan muck. Janssen introduced LB239 last session which would require individuals to show government-issued, photo ID before casting a ballot. It doesn’t sound like such a bad idea, until you dig under the icing on this mud pie.

First of all, the bill is completely pointless. Janssen says it’s all in the name of curbing voter fraud, but even he and the leading elections official in Nebraska admit that voter fraud is incredibly rare. In fact, when asked to cite data of voter fraud, Janssen can not provide that data. Nebraska’s elections are secure.

As a primer though, we should all know there are 3 types of voter fraud:

1. Voter registration fraud is anything involving the registration process whether it’s registering fictional characters (e.g. Mickey Mouse) or lying to people when you register them like Republicans in California did in 2008.

2. The second type is poll workers or others in positions of power committing fraud. 

3. Finally is voter impersonation, which is the only type of fraud Janssen’s partisan voter ID bill would address. This is where someone would go in to vote under another person’s name, and it’s the least common form of fraud.

Janssen’s bill will cost local counties and tax payers a lot of money. To compare, Minnesota and Missouri considered voter ID bills (but their governors vetoed them). Minnesota would have spent nearly $19.5 million just on voter education and outreach, and Missouri estimated their costs would be between $7-20 million. Using those numbers compared to population, Nebraska could spend $6.6 million to implement voter ID. We shouldn’t be wasting taxpayer money trying to slay mythical problems when we’ve got real issues like our broken child welfare system to fix.

Groups will be most impacted by voter ID are youth, low income, disabled, elderly, and rural Nebraskans. These are the people least likely to have a valid, government-issued photo ID (which means a photo ID issued by the state with your current address, like a driver’s license) or access to the DMV.

I don’t have a valid photo ID because my driver’s license still has my mother’s address on it. I’m a recent college grad, and during school I never saw the point of paying $26 every time I moved to update my license. I was more concerned with paying my tuition and school fees. Like other young Nebraskans, I move often–it’s pretty normal for us to move even three times a year.

Putting up barriers for our family and neighbors to vote is not a Nebraska value. Wasting money chasing after mythical problems is not a Nebraska value. Nebraskans believe in fair, accessible elections. It says so in our state constitution, “All elections shall be free; and there shall be no hindrance or impediment to the right of a qualified voter to exercise the elective franchise.” Voting is not a privilege; it is our constitutional right. Let’s fight to protect it. Let’s stop Janssen’s partisan voter ID bill.

Action:
Call to Protect Your Vote: Get the word out by calling your fellow Nebraskans. Nebraska groups will be sponsoring phone banking on January 9th & 12 in Lincoln and Janury 10th in Omaha.

Protect Our Vote Lobby Day: Join us in the Capitol on January 11th to talk with state senators about protecting our vote. There will a brief training at 9am and a press conference at noon. Omahans can save on gas by jumping on charter buses.

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BOLD Nebraska
208 S. Burlington Ave., Ste 103, Box 325, Hastings, NE 68901