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NE lawmakers advance bill to comply with voter ID requirements, GOP concerned bill needs to combat voter fraud

A bill to comply with a voter ID requirement mandated by Nebraska voters was advanced by state lawmakers. Republicans are concerned the bill doesn't do enough to combat voter fraud.

Nebraska lawmakers advanced a bill Tuesday to comply with a voter ID requirement mandated by state voters in November, taking passage of the bill down to the wire amid Republican infighting on whether the measure goes far enough to combat voter fraud.

Lawmakers are scheduled to take up final debate on the bill Thursday — the same day lawmakers plan to adjourn the session.

The measure is expected to pass; it's backed by both the Republican governor and the secretary of state who oversees elections. Nebraska has no history of widespread voter fraud, but supporters of the voter ID requirement say it’s needed to prevent possible future problems.

It advanced Tuesday with only three lawmakers voting to continue a filibuster by Sen. Julie Slama, who has sought far-reaching requirements. Those include notarization of mail-in ballots, audits of witness signatures for mail-in ballots and verification of voters’ citizenship, even after they were required to show that proof at the time they registered to vote. Some election officials have said Slama's preferences would fall counter to constitutional law and could disenfranchise some voters in rural Nebraska.

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The version by Sen. Tom Brewer and the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee he chairs would allow a wide array of photo identification that voters could present at the polls. IDs would include passports, driver’s licenses, military and tribal IDs and Nebraska college IDs. Even expired IDs would be allowed as long as they have the voter’s name and photo. Residents of hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living centers would be able to use patient documents that include a photo.

Sticking points for Slama were some exceptions made for those who show up at the polls without a photo ID. Voters who show up without a photo ID could cast a provisional ballot but would have to present a valid ID to election officials within a week for the vote to be counted. Some rare photo ID exceptions would also be made, such as for those with religious objections to being photographed.

She also opposes allowing those voting by mail to include the number from their driver’s license or state ID card or a copy of an accepted document. Defenders of that allowance noted it protects those counties in the state's most rural areas that hold most elections by mail. Eleven Nebraska counties currently hold elections exclusively by mail.

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Slama called it "fraud-friendly."

"It's unfortunate," Slama said Tuesday during her four-hour filibuster of the measure. "Because we really do have here a measure that does not follow through with the wishes of the voters. It's not clean."

She continued to cast blame for the bill on Republican Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen.

Like other election officials — even Republican ones — across the country, Evnen has been a popular target among those who believe persistent conspiracy theories that the 2020 elections were rigged. Evnan has defended his office's work on the bill.

Brewer defended the bill, noting that 92 county election commissioners out of Nebraska's 93 counties signed off on it. The lone holdout was Sarpy County Election Commissioner Emily Ethington — who is also Slama's sister.

"We have a mandate from the people," he said. "And this bill does what they've asked."

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