- Associated Press - Thursday, March 2, 2017

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska lawmakers are considering asking voters to approve a constitutional amendment requiring people to show photo identification to vote.

The move comes after lawmakers in recent years have failed to approve a voter ID law. Sen. John Murante of Gretna, who sponsored the measure, told a legislative committee on Thursday that voters aren’t confident in the integrity of the electoral process and should be able to decide whether to require voters to show ID to prevent fraud.

“Every single vote illegally cast cancels out the vote of an American citizen, and even one illegal vote is too many,” Murante said.

The Nebraska Secretary of State’s office does not track voter fraud, but reports are rare. Two of the more than 860,000 Nebraska residents who voted in the 2016 general election are facing charges of voter fraud: A pair of men in Dawson County have April court dates for allegedly voting twice. One man was convicted for voting in both Kansas and Nebraska during the 2012 election, when more than 800,000 voted in Nebraska.

Supporters of Murante’s measure, including Omaha resident Larry Storer, said the lack of widespread voter fraud doesn’t mean anything.

“We the citizens don’t need evidence of fraud in Nebraska,” he said.

A constitutional amendment is an “underhanded way to force a voter ID bill upon the citizens of this state,” said Dewayne Mays of the Lincoln branch of the NAACP. Voter ID requirements place undue hardships on young mobile people, elderly people with health issues who don’t drive, people with physical or mental limitations and the poor, he said.

Omaha teacher Cheryl Goodwillie said her 86-year-old mother, a lifelong Republican, is among the people who could be disenfranchised by a voter ID law. Goodwillie’s mother moved to a smaller apartment in her Omaha assisted living facility after her husband died this summer and, after a three-hour ordeal the last time she was at the Department of Motor Vehicles, didn’t want to go back to update her address on her non-operator ID. For the first time, Goodwillie’s mother didn’t vote in the 2016 election.

“If this bill were to become law, my mother’s experience and my own mistake would become part of the state’s constitution,” Goodwillie said. “Please don’t make it impossible for the elderly and disabled to vote.”

Nebraska has tried several times in the past few years to introduce voter ID laws, but these measures have always died in committee or been filibustered on the floor. Murante’s approach would require more support from the Legislature - 30 of 49 votes - and a statewide vote. It also would authorize the Legislature to specify which forms of ID are acceptable.

The constitutional amendment is a “bad response to a nonexistent problem,” said longtime Lancaster County poll worker Jean Durgin-Clinchard.

“Think of the poll worker having to scrutinize the image and the person for a match, as well as determining the address,” she said.

Supporters contend requiring a photo ID to vote is no different than requiring an ID to board a plane, buy a gun or lease a car.

“I have to show a valid driver’s license with a picture ID just to cash a check because the machine spit it out, and we’re letting people vote without showing any ID,” said Omaha resident James Sazama.

Critics say that not all eligible voters have a government-issued photo ID.

Sen. Adam Morfeld, who has filibustered voter ID bills in previous years, proposed his own constitutional amendment that would prohibit voter ID laws. His proposal is set for a hearing in two weeks.

Seven states - Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin - have strict photo ID laws for voters. Sixteen states, including Nebraska, are considering legislation that would create new voter ID laws or make existing laws stricter, according to New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice.


Follow Julia Shumway on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JMShumway

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