Nebraska Democrats criticized for refugee basket voter forms

AP News
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Posted: Mar 27, 2017 7:11 PM

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A leading Nebraska lawmaker demanded "corrective action" from the state Democratic Party on Monday after learning that party officials included voter registration forms in welcome baskets for refugees, a move that has drawn intense criticism and death threats.

Republican State Sen. John Murante called on the Nebraska Democratic Party to provide county election officials with a list of basket recipients and to notify recipients that they are ineligible to vote because they are not U.S. citizens.

"Corrective action needs to be taken immediately," Murante said during a news conference at the Capitol. "... We have an obligation to ensure that only citizens of this state are registered to vote."

The Democratic Party donated baskets to refugee resettlement groups on March 18 that included baby formula, dishes and other items. Democratic Party Chairwoman Jane Kleeb said the intent was to familiarize refugees with the registration process and signal that the party welcomes them to the state.

She said she has received death and sexual assault threats since the story broke on conservative blogs. In response to Murante's request for a list of basket recipients, Kleeb emailed that she could give the senator a list "of people giving me death threats and telling me they will send 'terrorists' and 'Muslims' over to my house to rape me, put my head in a basket and call for my public hanging."

The party created about 50 baskets at an event in Lincoln and gave them to two refugee resettlement groups. The resettlement groups have said they discarded the voter registration forms.

Murante, who is considering a run for Nebraska secretary of state, said state officials need to be "absolutely certain" that no one who is ineligible has tried to register to vote. He said it was especially important in Douglas and Lancaster counties, where Omaha and Lincoln both have April primaries and May general elections for city offices.

Nebraska led the nation in resettling the most refugees per capita between October 2015 and September 2016, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of federal government data.

The state welcomed more than 1,400 refugees during that period, many from Burma, Sudan and Somalia. Lincoln has the nation's largest concentrations of Yazidis, a religious minority group from Iraq.

Nebraska Republican Party Chairman Dan Welch said including the forms in the baskets was "baffling."

"These actions demonstrate one of two things: either malicious intent to register non-citizens to vote in Nebraska, or a lack of understanding of refugees being ineligible to vote," Welch said in a statement.

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