An effort to require Nebraska voters to display photo identification to cast a ballot has failed this session, but is likely to return.
The Unicameral debated LB 239 and various amendments for eight hours. Then, the sponsor called for a cloture vote; an effort to end the filibuster mounted by opponents and force a vote on the bill. The legislature voted 30-to-16 to cut off debate, three votes short of the total needed.
Sen. Charlie Janssen of Fremont sponsored LB 239. He told reporters afterward that the vote effectively kills the measure for this year, but that if he wins re-election he intends to pursue the issue.
“I never guarantee anything is coming back, but I think there’s a high likelihood I’ll bring something back dealing with voter fraud and voter ID,” Janssen said.
Janssen said he knew the vote would be close and had anticipated having 33 votes at most for his effort to end the filibuster, the minimum needed. Janssen said he thought he had 31 votes and needed to turn two senators. He doubted that he could have mustered the votes even if given more time.
Opponents insisted throughout the debate that the measure was not needed, that supporters could not point to any incidents of widespread voter fraud in Nebraska. Opponents also claimed that the bill would have erected barriers to groups of voters, such as college students, minorities and the elderly.
Janssen said he reached out to opponents in an attempt to fashion a compromise, but they were not willing to budge. He said the issue became partisan and the vote broke largely along party lines.
Prior to the cloture vote, Gov. Dave Heineman indicated his support for requiring photo identification to vote, though he stopped short of endorsing LB 239. Heineman said he understood the arguments against the bill, but favored the concept.
“And I want to be very clear, in no way do I want to impede any voting opportunity for any legal citizen of this country,” Heineman told reporters during a news conference in his Capitol office Wednesday morning. “But, again, anything we can do to minimize voter fraud is probably appropriate, too.”
After the cloture vote failed, the legislature moved on to other legislation.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]