An Omaha lawmaker is taking another stab at creating an independent advisory commission of citizens to redraw the state’s political maps. Introduced by State Sen. Burke Harr, Legislative Bill 216 is similar to a proposal brought last year by Sen. John Murante of Gretna and then-Sen. Heath Mello of Omaha. Gov. Pete Ricketts vetoed the bill, citing constitutional objections. Murante did not seek a legislative override and has introduced LB 653, his own redistricting proposal, this year. Harr told members of the Legislature’s Executive Board on Monday that he’s willing to work with Murante toward a compromise and has looked at Ricketts’ concerns. “I reintroduced the bill taking into account the governor’s concerns,” he said.
Articles about voting issues in Nebraska.
Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha on Wednesday introduced legislation designed to increase voter participation by authorizing all counties to conduct all elections by mail. Wayne, a freshman lawmaker, said he intends to amend his bill (LB619) to couple mail elections with establishment of a few voting centers to retain the option of voting in-person for Nebraskans who wish to participate in the traditional manner of casting their ballots at polling sites. Mail balloting would increase access to voter participation by “people without transportation, disabled people, those who are working three jobs, workers who need easier access to the right to vote,” Wayne said.
Civic engagement in elections could get a boost under a bill introduced Monday by a freshman lawmaker from Omaha. Legislative Bill 163, introduced by State Sen. Tony Vargas, would require the state’s three largest counties each to provide at least three early voting locations with extended hours. Vargas said the bill originated from talking to Nebraskans who said the distance and travel time to Douglas County’s only early voting location were barriers to casting their ballot.
Nebraska: Bill would restore voting rights immediately for felons who served their time | Lincoln Journal Star
Omaha Sen. Justin Wayne introduced a voting rights bill Thursday to give felons who have served their time the ability to vote upon release. The bill (LB75) would take away a two-year waiting time for released prisoners with felony convictions. Shakur Abdullah of Omaha has been waiting for his chance to vote since he was released from a Nebraska prison a year ago. He was convicted for two felonies at age 16 — murder and shooting with the intent to kill during a robbery, for which he was given a life sentence. He was resentenced in 2015 as part of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that gave judges the option of sentencing juveniles to something other than an automatic life term. He was released in January 2016. Since then, he has been working on getting legislation passed that would allow him and other convicted felons who have served their time the right to vote without the wait.
Nebraska: Plan sought to update Nebraska’s election equipment; prospect of statewide all-mail voting raised | Omaha World Herald
The Legislature needs a plan in place to update aging election equipment, though many decisions will hinge on whether leaders pursue statewide all-mail voting, lawmakers were told Monday. Douglas County Election Commissioner Brian Kruse told the Legislature’s Special Election Technology Committee that two of his county’s nine vote-counting machines weren’t operating properly on Nov. 8, contributing to some numbers not being available until 5:30 the next morning. But he cautioned against replacing the machines until decisions are made about whether the state should switch to voting only by mail, an option he said he believes has support among the Douglas County Board. “Some of (the board members) have brought it up to me,” he said.
Nebraska’s voting equipment is becoming outdated and needs to be replaced to ensure elections run smoothly, county officials and advocates said Monday. Election commissioners from Douglas, Sarpy, Lancaster and Hall counties raised the concern in a legislative hearing but told lawmakers they’re waiting until Nebraska officials decide whether to switch to statewide mail-in voting. Nebraska’s election system faces challenges because many of the state’s smallest counties can’t afford the technology upgrades. Some county voting machines rely on antiquated technology, such as 1990s-era Zip drives, to help tabulate votes. Douglas County Election Commissioner Brian Kruse said one of the machines in his office stopped working on election night 2016, and others experienced problems. Kruse said his county’s commissioners generally support a switch to statewide mail-in voting, which would reduce costs and save storage space that’s required for precinct voting machines.
Secretary of State John Gale assured Nebraskans on Wednesday that the state’s election system is “very safe and secure” from outside manipulation. “I believe we have taken every step that is appropriate at this point to ensure that all aspects of the election system are protected at the highest level possible,” Gale said in a statement issued from his office. Gale’s assurance comes on the heels of attempted hacking of various election sites around the country as well as the breach at the Democratic National Committee that has resulted in the public release of private communications. U.S. intelligence officials have pointed the finger at Russia in identifying attempts to interfere in the U.S. election process.
Nebraska: Nearly half of Nebraska county election officials may be denying voting rights | Lincoln Journal Star
Only about half of Nebraska’s 93 counties accurately provide voting rights for ex-felons, according to a survey by the ACLU of Nebraska. Nearly half of the county election officials contacted by ACLU researchers provided inaccurate information related to voting rights for people with felony convictions, the organization said. State law allows a convicted felon to register to vote two years after completing all of the terms of a sentence, which include parole and probation. “Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy and the fundamental right upon which all our civil liberties rest,” ACLU of Nebraska Executive Director Danielle Conrad said in a news release Monday. “Nebraskans that have completed their sentences have a right to participate in our democracy.” The Legislature restored the voting rights for people with felony convictions more than 10 years ago, she said. “But sadly today a significant amount of confusion still exists. These survey results are a call to action.”
Nebraska’s secretary of state is challenging the conclusions of an ACLU of Nebraska survey that questioned county election officials’ knowledge of voting rights for former felons. Secretary of State John Gale said the question asked in the survey done by volunteers might not have been consistent across all counties. None of the eight counties contacted by his office Tuesday could remember getting a phone call in the past month from someone from ACLU of Nebraska, he said. But Tyler Richard, spokesman for the ACLU, said the volunteers did not identify themselves as calling for the ACLU. And they asked a standardized question to all counties: “Can a former felon register to vote?”
Nebraska: Secretary of State questions ACLU survey on felon voting rights, follows up with counties | Omaha World Herald
Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale took issue Tuesday with an ACLU survey that reportedly found half of the state’s county election officials gave wrong answers when asked about felons’ voting eligibility. ACLU of Nebraska said Monday that 47 of 93 county officials answered incorrectly when asked by phone: “Can a former felon register to vote?” In Nebraska, someone with a felony conviction can register to vote two years after completing all terms of a sentence.