“This bill is a solution looking for a problem.”
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was in Lincoln, Nebraksa, on Friday to encourage lawmakers to adopt a new voter ID bill.
During a public hearing over the issue, in which opponents of the voter suppression measure reportedly outnumbered supporters 2-1, Kobach claimed a similar measure he authored in Kansas led to an increase in voter turnout during the last election.
In addition to his role in Kansas, Kobach is an attorney with the Immigration Reform Law Institute, the legal arm of the anti-immigrant movement’s flagship organization, Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).
Also speaking in support of the bill was Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom President Doug Kagan who likened the voter suppression measure to a polio vaccine, claiming the bill would protect the sanctity of elections. FAIR’s website lists Kagan and his group as a Nebreaska state contact.
BY ANNA GRONEWOLD, ASSOCIATED PRESS, January 24, 2015
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Supporters and opponents of a Nebraska voter identification bill packed a public hearing Friday for a fierce debate over the measure.
The Legislature’s Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee heard heated arguments on a bill by Sen. Tyson Larson of O’Neill. The legislation would require voters to show a driver’s license or state identification card at a polling place. Fifteen other states have such a law.
A similar bill in 2013 did not advance to full Legislature. The committee’s leadership has since changed.
Advocates insist voter ID measures prevent voter fraud, but opponents say they discourage people from voting and that voter fraud is rare.
Doug Kagan of Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom testified in support of the measure, saying it protects the sanctity of the system and compared voter ID laws to a vaccination preventing polio.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has taken strong positions on election laws and immigration issues, said his state’s voter turnout increased slightly after it implemented a strict voter ID requirement, from 50 percent in 2010 to 51 percent in 2014.
Opponents, who outnumbered advocates by a 2-1 ratio on Friday, called the bill biased and costly. They pointed to historical voting barriers such as polling taxes and literacy tests designed to eliminate blocks of citizens from voting.
Major D. Mays, representing the Lincoln branch of the NAACP, said the measure places an unconstitutional burden on residents and there is no documented proof of voter fraud in Nebraska.
“This bill is a solution looking for a problem,” Mays said.
Erin Cooper, representing the Association of Students of the University of Nebraska, said the bill would create barriers for out-of-state students. If these students registered to vote in Nebraska but did not have a valid Nebraska ID with their registered address, they would not be allowed to vote.
“How can it protect our right to vote if we won’t be allowed to vote at all?” Cooper said.
ACLU of Nebraska legal director Amy Miller said voter fraud is almost non-existent in Nebraska, and warned the committee that her group would sue the state and win if the bill becomes law.
The committee also heard debate on a bill by Sen. Paul Schumacher of Columbus that would allow for registered voters without a proper ID to be photographed by poll workers before voting. The photo would be filed in case evidence is needed for voter fraud. He added the measure to a bill addressing secrecy of mail-in ballots.