With most of Nebraska’s election technology now roughly a decade old, its Legislature is considering a pair of bills that would help chart the future of voting in the state. Secretary of State John Gale coordinated with state Sen. Tommy Garrett to introduce a bill last week that would convene a task force to spend 2017 studying the state’s voting technology, and investigate whether a move to all-mail or online voting would be feasible in the next few years. Meanwhile, state Sen. Matt Hansen introduced a measure earlier this month to convene a legislative committee to conduct a similar study over the next few months. Neither of the measures would result in immediate changes, but Gale told StateScoop that both bills represent meaningful first steps for the state. “We really don’t have a crisis at this point, but it’s timely to start thinking ahead,” Gale said.
Nebraska residents who are eligible to vote will be able to register and update their registrations online under a new system that Secretary of State John Gale plans to launch this week. The secretary of state’s office will unveil the new project website Tuesday as part of National Voter Registration Day, said spokeswoman Laura Strimple. Gale has said the new system will mark one of the biggest technological advancements in voter registration in years. It also has been shown to boost voter registrations in other states that adopted the technology. “Online voter registration is really the tip of the spear when it comes to modernizing our election system in Nebraska,” said state Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln, the executive director of the voting-rights group Nebraskans for Civic Reform. “There’s a lot of work to be done, but this is a great first step.”
Nebraska will implement a new system of online voter registration this month, easing the registration process and opening the door to larger voter turnout. “We hope to improve registration and turnout,” Secretary of State John Gale said in announcing a rollout scheduled for Sept. 22. Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln, founder and executive director of Nebraskans for Civic Reform, said the new system implements a modern registration process his organization has been urging the state to adopt since 2008.
Mike Foley’s name can appear on the November ballot as a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, a Lancaster County District judge ruled Wednesday morning. Judge Lori Maret dismissed a legal challenge to Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale’s decision to allow Foley’s name on the Nov. 4 ballot instead of that of Lavon Heidemann, who resigned as lieutenant governor and withdrew as Republican gubernatorial candidate Pete Ricketts’ running mate last week.
A candidate for Nebraska governor says he will seek to appeal a judge’s decision allowing Mike Foley’s name to remain on the ballot as Republican Pete Ricketts’ running mate. Ricketts selected Foley as his lieutenant governor after former Lt. Gov. Lavon Heidemann resigned from his post and dropped out of the race last week. On Wednesday, Lancaster County District Judge Lori Maret dismissed a petition by Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Mark Elworth Jr. to have Heidemann’s name on the ballot for the Nov. 4 election. Elworth and state Democrats have criticized Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale, a Republican, for allowing Foley’s name onto the ballot despite the switch taking place after a deadline for Ricketts to commit to a running mate.
The clock is ticking on a legal battle over who will appear as Pete Ricketts’ No. 2 man on Nebraska ballots this fall. The federal deadline to have ballots sent to military and overseas voters is Friday, and the printers are already running for some counties. “My ballots have gone to print,” said Cass County Election Commissioner Nancy Josoff. She’s also emailed ballots to a couple traveling abroad. Most counties are in the final stages of proofing the many versions of ballots they distribute within their areas. Those proofs are then generally sent to Election Systems and Software, the Omaha company that produces ballots for 90 of Nebraska’s 93 counties. Meanwhile, attorneys are wrangling over whether state Auditor Mike Foley’s name should be allowed to replace that of former Lt. Gov. Lavon Heidemann on the ballot as running mate for Ricketts, the Republican gubernatorial nominee. Ricketts named Foley as his pick for lieutenant governor after Heidemann resigned last week. Democrats and others have balked at Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale for allowing the switch despite a Sept. 1 deadline for a person to agree to appear on the ballot as a candidate for lieutenant governor. Gale is a Republican.
More and more Nebraskans are choosing the convenience of filling out a ballot in the comfort of their own homes. Two weeks into early voting, ballot requests statewide are up more than 50 percent from the 2010 primary. “Once people do it, they really like it,” said Douglas County Election Commissioner Dave Phipps. “And I think that number will just continue to keep growing.” Along with the growing popularity of early voting, election officials say campaigns and the state Democratic Party are sending mailers to encourage people to request early ballots.
The governor signed a bill into law Monday to enable online voter registration by the middle of 2015. The new law, which also allows voters to update their registrations, is the latest in an ongoing effort by Secretary of State John Gale to make voter registration more convenient and efficient. Gale stood alongside Gov. Dave Heineman on Monday when he put his signature on the bill. “This is a huge, big step forward in terms of what we do with voter registration,” Heineman said. Legislative Bill 661 was introduced by Omaha Sen. Bob Krist on the secretary of state’s behalf.
Is the tide turning on voting rights? Leading up to the 2012 election, state legislatures passed dozens of laws to make it more difficult to cast a ballot. Last year, the Supreme Court gutted a key voting rights protection. Despite ongoing shenanigans in some parts of the country, things look much brighter two months into 2014, with increasing public bipartisan support for making our elections more free, fair, and accessible. Look at what has happened this year already. Last month, the bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration (co-chaired by the heads of both President Obama and Mitt Romney’s presidential campaigns) agreed on common-sense recommendations to improve elections, including ideas to expand early voting and modernize registration. Bipartisan leaders in Congress introduced a bill to strengthen the Voting Rights Act (revisions made necessary after the Supreme Court eviscerated one of its most powerful tools against discriminatory election practices). And, this month, Attorney General Eric Holder and Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky — unlikely bedfellows in almost any policy debate — each spoke out in favor of restoring voting rights to people with past criminal convictions.
Advocacy groups on Thursday assailed a voter ID law being proposed in the Legislature as unnecessary and unconstitutional. “Not only would many Nebraskans’ constitutional right to vote be limited if the voter ID bill were to be passed, taxpayer dollars would be wasted trying to prevent a problem which doesn’t exist,” said Amy Miller, legal director for the Nebraska chapter of the ACLU in testimony before the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. The committee discussed three measures by Omaha Sen. Bob Krist that are part of a Voter Integrity Project being touted by Secretary of State John Gale. The one (LB662) that caught the ACLU’s attention is aimed at increasing the integrity of the election process by addressing two areas that are at higher risk for potential fraud, Krist said.
Nebraskans could register to vote online and would have to present a photo ID in certain situations under a pair of bills that will have a public hearing next week. Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha has introduced three bills relating to elections and voting on behalf of Secretary of State John Gale. The Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee will hear testimony on the bills on Thursday. One of the bills would allow Nebraskans with a driver’s license or state identification card to register to vote or to update their voting information online. Thirteen states have online voter registration, Gale said.
Nebraska: Voter ID plan by Secretary of State Gale would apply to narrow group of citizens | Omaha.com
Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale thinks he has a less expensive, less intrusive “Nebraska” solution to the politically charged issue of requiring voters to present identification before casting a ballot. But it was hard to find anyone who liked his compromise plan on Wednesday. Gale said he plans to seek legislation that will require only a portion of registered voters — about 75,000 — to present ID before voting. Everyone else, about 94 percent of the 1.2 million registered voters in Nebraska, would not have to present ID. The secretary of state said his “voter integrity” proposal resolves his concerns about previous voter ID legislation, which he felt would cost too much money to implement and would place a burden on too many people.