Nebraska voter ID petition drive enlists help of Gov. Ricketts for last-minute push

By: - June 23, 2022 3:00 am

(Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

LINCOLN — A group seeking to place a voter ID initiative on the November ballot announced Wednesday that it has enlisted Gov. Pete Ricketts to help round up last-minute signatures for the effort.

 Citizens for Voter ID, which has been primarily financed by Ricketts’ mother, Marlene, said it will hold a series of town hall meetings next week in eastern Nebraska featuring the Republican governor.

“These town halls will be a great opportunity not only to hear how the petition effort for voter ID is going, but how voter ID will enhance, secure, and protect election integrity,” said State Sen. Julie Slama, who is a named sponsor of the petition drive.

State Sen. Julie Slama
State Sen. Julie Slama
(Courtesy of Unicameral Information Office)

July 7 deadline

Citizens for Voter ID did not respond to a request by the Nebraska Examiner on Wednesday to indicate how many signatures it had collected so far. It will need to submit valid signatures of 10% of the registered voters in the state — about 124,000 — by the July 7 deadline to qualify the proposed constitutional amendment for the November ballot.

The proposal would require voters to present “valid photographic identification” in order to vote. Thirty-five states have laws requiring voters to show some form of ID at the polls, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

 A spokeswoman for the voter ID group said that additional petition circulators had been hired recently to help gather sufficient signatures and that the effort was “on track” to qualify.

Complaints about circulators

Last month, the Nebraska Examiner reported that both a current and former state senator had complained about paid, voter ID petition circulators misrepresenting what the initiative would do and misidentifying themselves as “state employees.” 

John Cartier, the voting rights director for Civic Nebraska, said that if the issue the petition effort  is “integrity,” it should focus on the “fraud” committed by  voter ID petition circulators.

Cartier said his group has gathered 10 signed affidavits from people seeking to have their names removed from the voter ID petition because they were misled. An official with the Nebraska Secretary of State’s Office said Wednesday that it had received five such affidavits.

Citizens for Voter ID has billed its initiative as “protecting Nebraska’s election integrity.” After the complaints surfaced, Slama pledged to investigate and take appropriate action against any circulators acting inappropriately.

Not a problem

Cartier said that the initiative is addressing a problem that doesn’t exist because “voter impersonation” is so rare.

“Measures like this serve to disenfranchise people for no real reason, except it sounds good on the campaign trail,” he said.  

Secretary of State Bob Evnen has said that he supports voter ID requirements, but he has also said he found no evidence of fraudulent votes cast in the 2020 election.

Campaign spending reports, submitted by Citizens for Voter ID in November 2021, indicated that it has collected $377,000 in donations: $376,000 from Marlene Ricketts and $1,000 from former Omaha Mayor and U.S. Rep. Hal Daub.

The voter ID town halls are scheduled: 

Tuesday: 10 a.m., LA Fire Proof Door, Fremont; 2:30 p.m., Majestic Theatre, Wayne.

Thursday, June 30: 9 a.m., Arbor Bank, Nebraska City; 1 p.m., Vintage Venue, Beatrice; 3:30 p.m., Holthus Convention Center, York.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the number of signatures needed to place the measure on the general election ballot.

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Paul Hammel
Paul Hammel

Senior Reporter Paul Hammel has covered the Nebraska Legislature and Nebraska state government for decades. He started his career reporting for the Omaha Sun and later, editing the Papillion Times group in suburban Omaha. He joined the Lincoln Journal-Star as a sports enterprise reporter, and then a roving reporter covering southeast Nebraska. In 1990, he was hired by the Omaha World-Herald as a legislative reporter. Later, for 15 years, he roamed the state covering all kinds of news and feature stories. In the past decade, he served as chief of the Lincoln Bureau and enterprise reporter. Paul has won awards for reporting from Great Plains Journalism, the Associated Press, Nebraska Newspaper Association and Suburban Newspapers of America. A native of Ralston, Nebraska, he is vice president of the John G. Neihardt Foundation, a member of the Nebraska Hop Growers and a volunteer caretaker of Irvingdale Park in Lincoln.