Questions from Attorney General’s Office could force amendment to Nebraska voter ID bill

By: - May 24, 2023 4:27 pm

People enter a voting precinct to vote. (Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

LINCOLN — A scheduled second-round vote Wednesday on the Nebraska Legislature’s favored voter ID bill was delayed by last-minute questions from the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office.

State Sen. Julie Slama of Dunbar and State Sen. Tom Brewer, who chairs the Government and Military Affairs Committee in the Nebraska Legislature, debate a voter ID bill Monday, May 22, 2023. (Aaron Sanderford/Nebraska Examiner)

People familiar with the discussions said the Attorney General’s Office requested that Legislative Bill 514 narrow its exceptions for people who say they couldn’t get a state-approved ID card in time to vote.

State Sen. Tom Brewer, who chairs the Legislature’s Government and Military Affairs Committee, said his staff is working with the Attorney General’s Office on drafting a possible amendment.  

They are “trying to get the verbiage right,” he said, because this could be the last chance to make any changes. A spokeswoman for Attorney General Mike Hilgers had no immediate comment. His office has been part of the committee’s voter ID negotiations for months.

The problem is that LB 514 faces a filibuster from State Sen. Julie Slama of Dunbar, who has said she prefers a “more conservative vision” for voter ID — hers. She has criticized the same exceptions in LB 514.

There is no guarantee the amendment Brewer’s staff is writing can get to a floor vote before time runs out. Slama has filed a series of amendments and motions on LB 514.  

“We’re going to try and get there,” Brewer said. “That’s our hope, if it looks like it’s making the bill better.”

On Wednesday, Slama said she hadn’t yet been consulted about the possible amendment, nor had she been a part of discussions about the need for one. 

“I would have liked to participate,” she said. “I’ve told him what he could do to make the bill better.”

Nebraska Attorney General Mike Hilgers (Courtesy of the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office)

Slama wants fewer exceptions for people who can’t present an ID to vote. She also does not like a provision in the bill that allows early voters to write down their own ID number, with election officials checking those numbers against a state database of state-approved photo IDs.

Her approach would require a witness or a notary public to sign an early voter’s ballot envelope and vouch that they had seen a person’s photo ID.  

Additionally, Slama wants added layers of citizenship checks on voters beyond the state’s current checks when someone registers to vote.  

Voting rights advocates have argued that the exceptions in the committee amendment for people without IDs are trying to follow federal election law and federal election case law. They questioned the legality of Slama’s narrower proposal.

Brewer expect the bill to come back to the floor Tuesday for second-round debate. If Slama maintains her filibuster, that round of debate could take four hours.


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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.