A voter shows identification to an election judge during primary voting on May 3, 2022, in Lordstown, Ohio. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
LINCOLN — Nebraska voters passed a state constitutional amendment in 2022 requiring voters to verify their identities with a photo ID. This June, the Nebraska Legislature decided how the Secretary of State’s Office and 93 county election officials would implement that amendment, starting with the state’s 2024 primary election.
The public education piece of that effort, outreach to voters and would-be voters, starts this summer. The Secretary of State’s Office is already preparing a brochure to hand out in Grand Island during the Nebraska State Fair. Civic Nebraska and other voting rights organizations are also ramping up.
Need an ID?
The new law covers the costs of a state photo ID for voting for anybody who needs one. People will need to bring a copy of their birth certificate or other identifying documents to their local Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles office. The law also covers the cost of one copy of a birth certificate for Nebraska residents from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.
Secretary of State Bob Evnen said his office will staff a booth at the State Fair that will let people pick up brochures and ask state and local election officials how the new law will work, Legislative Bill 514. They also plan outreach through social media, TV, radio and print advertising as elections get closer.
The Nebraska Examiner pulled together a quick guide for what voters will need to know before they head to the polls for the first election that the state will requiring the ID, the state’s May 2024 primary. This guide, built with input from state and local election officials, should help folks get ready to vote.
Voting on Election Day in person
Voters heading to the polls in person will need to bring a state-approved photo ID, which could include a driver’s license, a college ID, a nursing home ID, a passport, a military ID, a tribal ID or an ID from a city, county, school district or another political subdivision of the state.
People who accidentally forget their photo ID but want to go ahead and cast their ballot can still choose to vote provisionally. However, they will need to find or obtain a photo ID and bring it to their county election office within a week of Election Day to have their ballot count.
Others who lack access to a photo ID will need to apply for a certificate from their county election office verifying a disability, circumstance or religious objection that lets them vote without showing a photo ID. Federal case law limits states from restricting people in both groups from participating in elections.
“We want to be sure that they know … when they come to vote, they need to prepare to present that identification, because I can see folks getting cranky because they’ve never had to do this before, and this is new,” said State Sen. Tom Brewer, who represents north-central Nebraska and led passage of the bill.
Voting early in person
People who like to vote early in person at their county election office will need to follow the same requirements as voting on Election Day in person. They’ll need to bring a state-approved photo ID or vote provisionally and bring in a photo ID later.
Those who qualify for a legal exception to photo IDs can apply for a certificate allowing it. The Secretary of State’s Office has already started training with county election officials and has a training conference scheduled this fall. The goal is to help counties prepare to re-train poll workers used to the old way of doing things and to hire and train new poll workers in time for 2024.
Voting early by mail
This is where LB 514 gives voters some options on how to verify their photo ID. When requesting an early voting ballot by mail, Nebraska voters will need to write their driver’s license or approved state ID number on the ballot request form. Those who choose not to write down that information can put a photocopy of their state-approved photo ID in the envelope or a form for a “reasonable impediment certification.”
Election officials hope that by pushing this part of the process up to the point when people request ballots, instead of waiting for when they return ballots by mail, that voters who forget a step in the ID verification process will still have adequate time to visit their county election offices and provide ID or obtain the necessary certification to have their ballot count.
Voting by mail in an all-mail precinct
People in all or part of 11 largely rural Nebraska counties vote entirely by mail – Boone, Cedar, Cherry, Clay, Dawes, Dixon, Garden, Knox, Merrick, Morrill and Stanton. Every registered voter in those all-mail precincts already receives a ballot by mail. Their process changes a bit under the new law.
They will need to write their driver’s license or approved state ID number on the envelope used to return their ballot. They will also have the option of instead using a photocopy of an approved photo ID or a certificate noting a legal exception to showing a photo ID.
The Secretary of State’s Office is already working with local election officials to try to design request and return forms and ballot envelopes that will work without requiring investments in new boxes to transport ballots to county election offices for secure counting.
Implementing the new voter ID process will require months of state and local work, Evnen said, including months of engagement with the public long before they hit the polls. An “adjustment period” is unavoidable, he and other election officials have said.
“The law that was passed reflects what was learned in other states (that implemented voter ID),” he said.
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