The latest effort to require voters to present a photo ID in order to participate in Nebraska elections attracted strong opposition Thursday at a legislative hearing on its first step toward a filibuster showdown.
The new proposal (LR1CA) offered by Sen. John Murante of Gretna was crafted in the form of a constitutional amendment that would be submitted to Nebraska voters in 2018.
If voters approved the amendment, the Legislature would determine the voter ID requirements.
Supporters who testified in favor of the plan told the Government, Military and Affairs Committee that voter photo IDs are needed to address increasing concerns about voter fraud, including possible voter participation by undocumented or illegal immigrants.
"There should be zero tolerance for vote fraud," said Doug Kagan of Omaha, speaking for Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom.
"Voter fraud does seem to be spreading across our nation," Larry Storer of Omaha said.
Among supporters was the Nebraska Federation of Republican Women.
Opponents argued that requirements for voter photo IDs tend to suppress the votes of students and other mobile young people, the elderly and disabled, African-Americans, Latino-Americans and the poor, most of which are traditional Democratic constituencies.
And that, some testifiers said, is what photo ID requirements are designed to do.
"It has the same effect as the poll tax that my parents endured," said Major Dewayne Mays, speaking for the Lincoln branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
"There is no evidence of voter fraud in Nebraska," he said. "Additional restrictions and burdens on voters limit participation."
Many low-income or elderly people may not have a driver's license or any other form of photo ID, the committee was told.
There should be "no burden on the constitutional right to vote," said Danielle Conrad, executive director of ACLU of Nebraska.
Photo ID requirements "create barriers to voting rights for low-income Nebraskans," Darcy Tromanhauser, director of the immigrants program at Nebraska Appleseed, said.
Other opponents included the Heartland Workers Center in South Omaha, Nebraskans for Civic Reform, the Anti-Defamation League, the League of Women Voters of Nebraska, AARP and Common Cause Nebraska.
Following opposition testimony, Murante told the committee that his purpose is not to suppress the vote in minority communities or anywhere.
His legislative record demonstrates support for district elections that have helped ensure minority rights in Omaha, he said.
Earlier, Murante said voter ID requirements are particularly needed now because of "a lack of confidence" among voters that elections are not tainted by illegal votes.
The composition of the committee virtually assures that Murante's proposal will be advanced to the floor of the Legislature for consideration.
And then a filibuster by opponents is essentially guaranteed.
It would take the votes of at least 33 of the 49 senators to break a filibuster.