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Nebraska voter ID, minimum wage initiatives heading for approval

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Two separate ballot measures, one to implement photo ID for voting in future elections and another to gradually raise the minimum wage in Nebraska, were headed to victory Tuesday night.

Voters were on track to approve Initiative 433, which will annually increase the state’s minimum up to $15 per hour by 2026, and Initiative 432, which will require voter ID.

Support for increasing the minimum wage was strong Tuesday night, having garnered more than 60% approval as of 10 p.m.

Raise the Wage Nebraska campaign manager Kate Wolfe said she was encouraged by the results.

Wolfe said she believes the minimum wage issue resonates with Nebraskans. In 2014 the state's voters overwhelmingly voted in favor of raising the minimum wage from the federal minimum rate of $7.25 per hour. The minimum wage has been $9 per hour since 2016.

“As Nebraskans, we are people who care deeply about the well-being of our neighbors, friends and family. That often translates in these ballot initiatives where the citizens get to participate in probably the closest action of direct democracy as we have,” she said.

One voter, Norah Morris, said Tuesday she was motivated to vote in favor of raising the minimum wage.

“I think that’s important,” she said.

Leading up to the election, supporters argued that raising wages would be a boon to the state’s economy. Joey Adler Ruane, policy director at Open Sky Institute, previously said the initiative would be enough to lift more than 10,000 Nebraskans out of poverty.

Wolfe cited research from the National Employment Law Project stating that 75% of the Nebraska workers who would benefit from the wage increases are over 20 years old, and a majority of them are women.

Critics, including Gov. Pete Ricketts, contended the measure would, among other things, hurt small businesses. Ricketts has argued the market should determine wages, not the government.

Initiative 433 will annually increase the state’s minimum up to $15 per hour by 2026 and provide cost of living increases starting in 2027.

Nebraska voters also signaled strong support for enacting voter ID. After trailing in early results, Initiative 432 jumped to a sizeable lead, with more than 60% of the vote supporting the measure as of 10 p.m. The initiative will put Nebraska among a majority of states to require people to present photo ID to vote in future elections.

“We’re thrilled to see the results of tonight,” said State Sen. Julie Slama, who led the petition effort to get the initiative on the ballot. “It’s no surprise to me that Nebraska voters have overwhelmingly decided to support a commonsense election security measure.”

Critics argued the measure was unnecessary and sought to address a nonexistent problem. They also said the photo requirement would make it more difficult for some groups to vote.

In a statement, Civic Nebraska, which opposed Initiative 432, said efforts to show Nebraskans the consequences of the initiative "did not overcome the persistence of The Big Lie and repeated assaults on the reputation of our elections."

"Nebraskans should expect the same politicians who spent so much time and money to sell this vague bill of goods to now work to impose one of the most restrictive voter ID mandates in the country," the organization said.

It will be up to the Nebraska Legislature to approve implementation language during the next legislative session. Slama said she “is looking forward” to leading that effort.

Secretary of State Bob Evnen, who supported the initiative, previously acknowledged that Nebraska has not had a problem with voter fraud generally, let alone any cases of people trying to impersonate others to vote — the type of fraud that voter ID would prevent.

The voter ID initiative was a source of motivation for several voters who spoke with The World-Herald Tuesday.

Amanda Frampton, 35, voted in favor of Initiative 432 Tuesday.

“You should have a photo ID to vote,” she said.

On the other side, Don and Janet Busenbark, who are in their 50s, took the opposite stance. Both said the current registration and voting system is working.

“It just doesn’t seem like there’s a record of fraud to justify the expense,” Janet Busenbark said.

Voters also overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the state constitution that will allow local governments with airports more financial leeway to attract or retain commercial passenger airlines.

Campaigns seeking to raise Nebraska's minimum wage turned in more than enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot. Officials now must verify the signatures.

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