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Voter photo ID petition signature drive begins in Nebraska
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Voter photo ID petition signature drive begins in Nebraska

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More than a half year after the election, Republican lawmakers are passing new restrictions requiring identification to vote by mail. Voters in Florida and Georgia who want to vote absentee ballots in next year's governors races now must first provide identification to receive a ballot. Only two states had such a law in the books in 2020. New legislation requiring additional identification for mailed ballots has been introduced in 10 states. Critics say the measures may disproportionately bar votes from low-income, minority and college-age voters who are more likely to lack valid identification or an ID with a current address.Republicans pushed for the new restrictions, fanning concerns over election integrity by embracing former President Trump's false claims of voter fraud in last year's election. Those claims have been rejected by more than 50 state and federal courts - including the U.S. Supreme Court. And though all 50 states also certified election results, Republicans have also called for election audits in multiple hotly contested states, alleging fraud. On Friday, a state judge in Georgia ruled that 142,000 mail ballots could be unsealed for inspection in Fulton County, which includes much of Atlanta. Another heated ballot review continues in Arizona, where some Republican officials in Maricopa County say a private GOP audit is causing a split in the party. "There's this bloodthirstiness that's going on in our party right now that I don't understand, but we have to stop it," Bill Gates, Vice Chair of Maricopa Board of Supervisors said. "This is tearing at the foundations of democracy to act in this way to treat one another this way."President Joe Biden won narrow victories in both Georgia and Arizona - with official ballot recounts upholding his wins.One independent voter in Arizona said Republicans insistence on an audit - long after the fact - could stir a backlash against them.  "Well, I think, it's going help the Democrats. We think it's crazy. I mean, now how can people still be questioning this election. you can't fix stupid, I guess."

The initiative petition drive to propose a constitutional amendment that would require photo identification in order to cast ballots in Nebraska elections began to gather signatures Thursday.

The proposal, long sought by the Nebraska Republican Party, would be placed on the 2022 general election ballot as a constitutional amendment if supporters acquire a currently estimated 124,000 signatures that include the names of at least 5% of the registered voters in 38 of the state's 93 counties.

"The people of Nebraska are often referred to as the second house (in a state with a unicameral legislature) and our committee is making sure that their voice is heard over those of the special interests with influence in the Capitol," Sen. Julie Slama of Sterling said.

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Voter ID legislative proposals have been unable to clear filibusters by opponents in the Legislature.

Democrats argue that a voter ID requirement is politically designed by Republicans to suppress the Democratic vote because those without photo IDs are disproportionately low-income, racial and ethnic minorities, the elderly and people with disabilities.

Petitioners need to submit signatures to the secretary of state by July 8, 2022.

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The proposal would authorize the Legislature to determine what constitutes valid photographic identification.

Slama is leading Citizens for Voter ID in coordination with Nebraska Republican Party National Committeewoman Lydia Brasch of West Point and former Douglas Country GOP Chairwoman Nancy McCabe of Omaha.

Civic Nebraska, which opposes the proposal, said it would cost Nebraska taxpayers $3 million to initially implement the proposal's requirements and nearly $1 million each year after that.

"The amendment would needlessly complicate and discourage voting," the organization stated.

"The politicians behind this initiative are asking you to willfully deny Nebraskans the ability and opportunity to participate equally in democracy."

Democratic State Chairwoman Jane Kleeb urged Nebraskans to decline to sign the petition.

"Not one eligible voter should be turned away because they don't have an ID that the Republicans deem necessary for Nebraskans to exercise their constitutional right to vote," Kleeb said.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSdon

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