Lobby Day for Voting Rights

“I’m here … because I think that voting rights are the basis of our democracy.  When I see voting rights come under attack I feel personally attacked and my heart goes out to people this bill will affect,” said Claire Hillan when asked why she gathered with over 70 other Nebraskans at the State Capitol Wednesday to lobby state senators in opposition to voter suppression legislation LB 239.

LB 239 seeks to require valid, government issued identification such as a driver’s license or passport in order for citizens to cast their vote.  The bill is costly, misguided and simply unnecessary.  The bill only addresses voter impersonation, which the bill’s introducer, Sen. Charlie Janssen, and the Secretary of State’s office have testified is not a problem in Nebraska.  Moreover, there are no documented cases of voting fraud – the alleged problem the bill seeks to prevent – occurring in Nebraska.  The bill, however, will have a disproportionate impact on seniors, youth, low-income, and disabled Nebraskans and create undue barriers to voting.

The bill is also an unfunded mandate on Nebraska counties.  According to the Nebraska Association of County Officials, which opposes LB 239, the bill will require hundreds of thousands of dollars per election in additional printing costs, training, and temporary workers to process increased provisional ballots and voter ID verification.  Recognizing these costs, the Douglas County Commission in December passed a unanimous resolution in opposition to the bill.

In response to the bill, a coalition including Nebraska Appleseed, Nebraskans for Civic Reform, the NAACP Lincoln and Omaha Chapters, the Nebraska Association of County Officials, the Latino American Commission, AARP Nebraska, Nebraska Advocacy Services, and over 15 other organizations organized a statewide lobby day to instruct concerned citizens how to approach their State Senators about opposing voter suppression legislation.

The morning began with Adam Morfeld, Executive Director of Nebraskans for Civic Reform, offering a brief background on LB 239 and current voting laws in the state. Morfeld reviewed three main reasons that prompted NCR to take action in opposition to the bill and took questions from participants. After arming citizens with a better understanding of the Bill and its shortcomings, Morfeld and Jennifer Carter, Director of Public Policy at Nebraska Appleseed, demonstrated a mock meeting with a Senator, showing citizens how to approach Senators with their concerns.

Lobby day participants divided into small groups and were assigned Senators to meet with to discuss their opposition to LB 239. The groups moved to the Rotunda and pulled Senators off the Legislature floor to speak with them.  Nebraskans from across the state used the training received earlier in the morning to discuss why they oppose LB 239 and answered Senators’ questions about the legislation.

After the groups finished meeting with their Senators, Lobby Day organizers held a press conference in conjunction with Omaha Senator Brenda Council, the organizations opposed to LB 239, and nearly 100 concerned citizens who attended Lobby Day to advocate for the protection of their constitutional right to vote.

Debate on the bill is expected on the floor of the Legislature as early as this Tuesday, Jan. 17.  Call, email or write a letter to your State Senator today and urge them to oppose the voter suppression bill LB 239.

Find your State Senator online.
Get a Fact Sheet about the LB 239 voter suppression bill.
See Nebraskans for Civic Reform’s web site on voter ID research.
Read Defending Democracy, a report on voter suppression laws across the US.

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