Nebraska Legislative Bill 337 (1995)
LB 337 required that the information a voter puts on an initiative petition (signature, address, etc.) be an exact match of what is in the voter registration records in order for the signature to be counted as a valid signature.
The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that this law was facially unconstitutional under the Nebraska Constitution. That constitution says that initiative & referendum process in Nebraska is self-executing, but that the legislature may enact laws to facilitate the I&R process. The court determined that the disputed law "on its face" did not facilitate the I&R process and, therefore, violated Nebraska's constitution.
A lower court, the District Court for Lancaster County, had erroneously upheld the unconstitutional law.
Stephen Moore was the Nebraska Secretary of State when the lawsuit was filed.
Two Nebraska laws were overturned by Stenberg v. Moore:
- Nebraska Legislative Bill 337 (1995)
- Nebraska Legislative Bill 460 (1997).
At the time that these laws came into effect, Don Stenberg was the Nebraska Attorney General. Stenberg issued a declaratory judgment determining that the laws were, on the face of it, unconstitutional violations of the clear meaning of the Nebraska constitution. Stenberg also sought an injunction to prevent Secretary of State Moore from implementing the laws.
On July 29, 1998, the district court in Lancaster County refused to grant the temporary injunction. Stenberg then filed an appeal with the Nebraska Supreme Court. Secretary of State Moore filed a brief with the Nebraska Supreme Court arguing that the two laws should remain in force. Moore's argument was that the laws did not require county clerks to invalidate a signature if it did not "exactly match" the information on their voter registration card, but only allowed them to invalidate a signature for that reason.
History of legislative deliberations
During the case hearing, the Nebraska Supreme Court considered evidence of what issues were brought up concerning the two laws during deliberations in the Unicameral. They found that several amendments had been offered to allow signatures to count if they "substantially matched" instead of the final wording of "exact match," but that these amendments had not passed. The court also heard testimony that the Nebraska unicameral senators had been made aware of the issues with the constitutionality of the laws they passed, when they were considering them.