Investigation: Just Who Is Behind Voter ID?
Omaha, NE -- It's a secret national group made of powerful corporations and billionaire conservatives, a group that few Omaha voters know about. Why would "they" be writing
Our lawmakers claim they came up with the idea for those controversial Voter ID Laws in Nebraska and Iowa themselves and that we all need to start showing ID at the polls to fight voter fraud. We're told we need changes in our voting laws to make sure nobody cheats on Election Day. Not only is there no proof of a voter fraud problem in either state, there is proof that the lawmakers writing both those laws are not telling you something important. About a group called "ALEC".
Nebraska State Senator Charlie Janssen is confused about why we want to know about the secretive, but very powerful group known as "ALEC". "I didn't use them at all for this bill so I'm really not understanding what the relevancy is," questioned Senator Janssen.
Senator Janssen says no powerful billionaires had any role in his Nebraska Voter ID Law. He stated, "We've experienced a lot of voter fraud across the country."
Even the chief official in charge of Nebraska elections says there's no real problem here. Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale said Nebraska has an aggressive Voter Fraud Unit already. Gale adds that "very few" people ever try to cheat here. In fact, there's little proof of serious voter fraud anywhere, but 31-states have jumped on the voter ID bandwagon anyway.
Iowa is headed there, too.
With little proof of cheating many Democrats say it's really all about Presdient Barack Obama. They believe that voter ID rules will probably keep a lot of the young and the poor from voting, both groups were big Obama backers last round. Opponents say that's where this secretive group of powerful conservatives comes in.
Brendan Fischer works for the Center for Media and Democracy. They publish ALEC Exposed. Brendan Fischer explained, "Voter ID. in your state and a lot of other states is not something that is necessarily being created by the people you elected."
The watchdog group says almost every voter ID bill in the nation shares common elements to a template that's provided by the group, American Legislative Exchange Council -- or "ALEC" for short.
ALEC calls itself a "Non-partisan membership association for conservative lawmakers who share a common belief". The group includes support from the controversial billionaire Koch brothers and other huge names in corporate America. Businesses like: Johnson & Johnson, Kraft Foods, AT&T and Walmart.
The watchdog group says ALEC is writing many of the hot bills our lawmakers claim as their own.
"These think tanks essentially hand state legislatures changes to our laws that they desire," Fischer added.
Action 3 News's Liz Dorland has studied both Iowa and Nebraska's proposed Voter ID bills and both hit on every single point in the ALEC template for "Voter ID Act" that is provided by ALEC Exposed
The co-sponsor of Iowa's bill is Senator Linda Upmeyer. She has clear ties to ALEC- in fact, she's the Treasurer.
How about Nebraska's bill?
Liz Dorland asked Senator Janssen, "I was looking at your bill and comparing it to Iowa's bill and there's a lot of similarities in the language."
Senator Janssen responded, "I didn't really use Iowa's bill to draft my bill. I used Indiana's bill originally."
Dorland examined Indiana's bill too. Again ever single point, down to an exception for nursing homes and a Monday deadline for bringing in your late ID, every single point matches the ALEC template.
Liz responded to Senator Janssen, "Indiana's is very similar to this model draft that ALEC Exposed provides. They say this is the model draft for a lot of these bills across the entire nation. Do you know about ALEC?"
Sen. Janssen said, "You know what, the first time I've talked about ALEC in two years is when you inquired about it."
"I'm not a member of ALEC. I've never attended an ALEC function either here in Lincoln or they have national conventions," added the Fremont Senator.
Dorland handed him a document that still lists the Senator on a big ALEC committee.
Janssen admitted, "Yeah, on my first year here I, I signed up for ALEC and then let my dues lapse."
Dorland asked him to explain why his bill is remarkably similar to ALEC's model bill and handed both his bill and the ALEC template to him. "And so your bill is not similar to this? Have you seen that?"
"No. I do not look at any ALEC materials," stated Sen. Janssen.
We did and the match is hard to ignore.
Nebraska's Voter Id Bill, LB239 will be on the Agenda at the Nebraska State Capital on Monday.
Iowa's Voter Id Bill passed the House in January and is waiting for the next round of approval.
Iowa's Voter Id Bill can be found here: http://coolice.legis.state.ia.us/Cool-ICE/default.asp?Category=billinfo&Service=Billbook&ga=84&hbill=HF95
Click on this link to find Nebraska's Voter Id Bill: http://www.nebraskalegislature.gov/FloorDocs/Current/PDF/Intro/LB239.pdf
Indiana's Voter Id Bill: http://www.in.gov/legislative/ic/2010/title3/ar11/ch8.html
ALEC Exposed: http://alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed
ALEC Voter ID Act Template: http://alecexposed.org/w/images/d/d9/7G16-VOTER_ID_ACT_Exposed.pdf
American Legislative Exchange Council: http://www.alec.org/
Reported By: Liz Dorland, firstname.lastname@example.org