By Logan Churchwell
A state lawmaker is demanding “corrective action” after the Nebraska Democratic Party admittedly planted voter registration forms in gift baskets intended for newly-arrived refugees.
Nebraska State Senator John Murante (R-Gretna) publicly asked in a letter Monday that Democrat Party Chairwoman Jane Kleeb disclose the names of any refugees who received voter registration forms tucked into welcoming baskets. The Chairman of the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee urged that Kleeb acts quickly to inform local election officials in affected counties since primary elections are scheduled in Lincoln and Omaha on April 4.
Murante notes in his letter that failure to assist local officials could risk illegal voter registrations, “diluting the voting power of legal voters”. Worse, he notes, some refugees could mistake the offer of voter registration to mean they are indeed eligible to vote, potentially complicating a pathway to naturalization, should they choose to do so. Murante was silent, however, on whether he believes the Democrats did anything illegal.
The episode initiated after a mid-March Facebook video shot by Kleeb at her latest state party gathering featured the welcome baskets. The chairwoman drew the camera’s attention to envelopes with the party logo:
Inside each basket, there’s also a letter from the Nebraska Democratic Party welcoming the family to Nebraska. It’s signed by me as chair of the party—and then we include a sticker in there for them to put on their car, and also include the voter registration form and just has our contact information in case they want to reach out and have any questions.
Both of the refugee resentment organizations operating in Nebraska–Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska and the Refugee Empowerment Center—claim that the political schwag was removed before any person received the gifts, according to the Lincoln Journal Star. The local paper previously noted Kleeb’s sense of incredulity with the entire affair, stating she is “totally confused why people are up in arms about this.”
Nebraska, like the vast majority of states, does not require verification of citizenship during voter registration. Without an up-front check, there remain few opportunities to scrub voter rolls of ineligible persons. The common procedures to identify illegal voter registrations have taken the form of reviewing jury declination documents for claims of non-citizenship or waiting for a person to claim a contrary immigration status to another government agency.
The Lincoln paper also noted that Senator Murante is considered a strong contender for Nebraska’s 2018 election for the office of secretary of state—a position that would make him the ultimate election administration authority.
Noncitizens are not the only problem facing Nebraska’s voter rolls in recent years. Before the 2016 Election, the Public Interest Legal Foundation found that seven counties (Loup, Wheeler, Kimball, Thurston, Hooker, Keya Paha, and Thomas) had more than 100 percent voter registration. When comparing total voters against residents aged 18 and older, the counties ranged from 101 to 110 percent. Voter roll bloat has been evident throughout Tornado Alley, with locales in Texas, Kansas, and South Dakota exhibiting similar issues.