ID time is coming soon for early voters in Nebraska

By: - February 7, 2024 1:34 pm

Omaha-area voters are likely to face the state’s most competitive congressional race in 2024. (Getty Images)

OMAHA — If you’ve put off getting a photo ID in Nebraska and you plan to vote in this spring’s primary elections, get it done.

This year, election officials must check your ID before you can vote, including if you’re voting early by mail.

Douglas County Election Commissioner Brian Kruse fired a warning flare Wednesday, reminding voters of a change to state law. 

New this year: Voters requesting a ballot to vote early must verify their ID. They can do so by writing down their ID number from a Nebraska driver’s license or state ID card.

A graphic of acceptable forms of ID people can use to vote early in Nebraska. (Courtesy of Nebraska Secretary of State’s Office)

Those unwilling or unable to provide one of those ID numbers on the request form can instead enclose a photocopy of a state-approved photo ID, which could be a passport, military ID or Nebraska college ID, among others. People with disabilities, major illness or religious objections to being photographed can fill out an exception form.

In Douglas County, about half of voters vote early by mail or early in person at the county election office. About 160,000 people have signed up for the county’s early voting list.

“I’m expecting about 85,000 of these (cards) to come back,” Kruse said. “So when voters get them, return them as soon as you can so we can process them.” 

State urges voters to plan

State election officials, including Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen, have urged voters to take steps now to reduce the chances of running into trouble while voting.

Douglas County Election Commissioner Brian Kruse points to the changed form for requesting an early voting ballot in Douglas County, Nebraska. (Aaron Sanderford/Nebraska Examiner)

His office reminded residents in the 11 rural counties that vote entirely by mail that they need to put their ID information on the envelope used to return their ballots. The state’s all-mail-voting counties are Boone, Cedar, Cherry, Clay, Dawes, Dixon, Garden, Knox, Merrick, Morrill and Stanton.

Nebraskans adopted a constitutional amendment in 2022 requiring that election officials check a voter’s photo ID. Lawmakers implemented the change by passing Legislative Bill 514.

During bill discussions, defenders of the voting status quo said the burden of requiring an acceptable ID would fall hardest on senior citizens and people without easy access to transportation to get an ID.

Part of the new law included money set aside to pay for a free state ID for voting from the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles if a person does not have one.

The biggest change to the ballot request cards for people on Douglas County’s early voting list is the requirement that they either write down their state ID or driver’s license number, enclose a photocopy of their ID or fill out a form for approved exceptions. (Aaron Sanderford/Nebraska Examiner)

Those who pressed for the constitutional amendment said the new law did not go far enough. This year, the Legislature is considering some language fixes that were filibustered.

Evnen, in a statement last month, said, “Every Nebraska voter should be thinking about how voter ID will impact their voting plan,” whether they plan to vote in person or by mail.

The state has created a website — https://sos.nebraska.gov/elections/voter-id — to help voters prepare. People can find their county election offices here

Election starts soon

The primary election is May 14. Counties will start mailing out requested early voting ballots on April 8. In-person early voting will begin April 15. People must take an ID or vote provisionally and show one afterward.

Kruse said provisional ballots that are cast without a photo ID or number must be cleared up by the close of business on May 21. He said people must take an ID to the county election office.

Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen, the state’s top election official, thanked poll workers with 20-plus years of service at a past event in Omaha. (Aaron Sanderford/Nebraska Examiner)

Like many county election offices across the state, Kruse’s office has been staffing up a little earlier in anticipation of needing more time to review ballot applications.

He said the changes would add an average of 30 seconds to a minute to the time it takes to verify ballot requests. Staff are preparing to answer questions from people unaware of the change.

As for what people should expect this spring at the polls, Kruse said his office is hiring a greeter for every polling place to remind people of the requirements before they wait in line.

“Just bring your ID to the polling place,” he said. “If you forget your ID, you can go get it and come back or you can fill out a provisional and … bring your ID to the office.”

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Aaron Sanderford
Aaron Sanderford

Political reporter Aaron Sanderford has tackled various news roles in his 20-plus year career. He has reported on politics, crime, courts, government and business for the Omaha World-Herald and Lincoln Journal-Star. He also worked as an assignment editor and editorial writer. He was an investigative reporter at KMTV.

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