Gov. Pete Ricketts speaks to people in Wayne, Nebraska, who gathered to hear more about a petition drive the governor supports that would require people present ID in Nebraska to vote. (Aaron Sanderford/Nebraska Examiner)
WAYNE, Nebraska — Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and supportive state senators are hosting town hall meetings this week aimed at boosting a petition drive for requiring ID to vote.
Fourteen of the 18 people who attended Tuesday’s meeting in Wayne signed the petition to put the proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot. Another handful of people also stopped in to sign.
But the governor remains unsure of whether petition circulators will secure the 124,000 signatures they must turn in by July 7 to get the voter ID amendment on the ballot this November.
“I think there is still work to be done,” Ricketts said. “I think it’s been a challenging year to be able to get signatures.”
Firms that hire paid petition circulators are facing the same problems that Nebraska businesses face: Hiring workers is harder when the state is posting record-low unemployment numbers, he said.
Ricketts and State Sen. Joni Albrecht of Thurston, who attended Tuesday’s meetings, said in separate interviews that the Nebraskans they’re talking to on behalf of Citizens for Voter ID want to require ID to boost belief in the integrity of voting.
In downtown Wayne, 18 people gathered midafternoon near the back of the Majestic Theater, within eyeshot of the screen where “Thor: Love and Thunder” is playing soon.
Several asked questions about how a voter ID requirement would work. Ricketts said the Legislature would decide how to implement the system if voters approve the change.
Many, including local financial adviser George Phelps, expressed interest in seeing elections made more secure. He said he’d like to make it easier for people to believe in election results.
“We have to have an ID for almost anything we do,” Phelps said. “If we don’t have integrity and voting integrity, then it’s a really difficult thing for our constitution.”
One attendee asked how the state would help poor people and the elderly avoid being disenfranchised from voting if they lack a state-issued ID card or active driver’s license.
“It’s sounding like a lot of rules would be implemented after,” she said after the event, declining to give her name. “A lot of people would need to be informed.”
Ricketts and Albrecht said the Legislature has heard similar concerns across the state and said they would make sure people who need help to pay the fees for an ID card get it.
“We’re going to do whatever it takes to make sure that everybody has a state ID, as they should,” Albrecht said.
Voting rights advocates, including Civic Nebraska, have argued that restricting voting to people with state-issued ID cards and driver’s licenses risks keeping thousands of Nebraskans from being able to cast ballots. They have also argued that the costs of implementing voter ID could top $1 million a year.
Steve Smith, a spokesman for Civic Nebraska, said Nebraskans don’t need to change the state constitution to make elections secure.
Voters already provide IDs when they register to vote, Smith said, and they sign affidavits when they sign in to vote in person or when they cast ballots by mail.
“This process works,” Smith said. “It’s safe, it’s secure and it has the force of law behind it. There is no evidence of voter impersonation occurring in Nebraska, and our elections are well-run.”
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