By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that required certain states with a history of voter suppression, including Mississippi, to obtain federal approval of all election changes.
The court majority ruled that the provision was no longer needed. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, who oversees state elections, answered questions on the ruling from the Daily Journal’s Bobby Harrison.
Q: Explain the impact of the Votings Rights ruling on Mississippi.
A: The Supreme Court ruled Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional, meaning its formula could no longer be used as a basis for subjecting jurisdictions, which included Mississippi, to preclearance. Prior to the decision, our state, counties and municipalities had to ask permission from the federal government before making any change to elections. This included everything from moving a precinct across the street to our voter ID requirement.
The Supreme Court decision now puts Mississippi on a level playing field with every other state in the nation. I believe our state and our citizens are competent to make election decisions without asking permission from the federal government. Mississippians have earned the right, and deserve the right, to conduct their own elections. We are closing a chapter in our history.
Q: Are you certain that this ruling is not going to adversely impact minorities? Many people say it will.
A: It is important to remember all states are still subject to Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Section 2 bans any “standard, practice, or procedure” that “results in a denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen…to vote on account of race or color.”
We are nation and a state of checks and balances, I have faith those checks and balances will ensure no one is adversely affected by the decision, without the added layer of federal oversight. We have moved past the Mississippi of one-half a century ago. Discrimination in voting in any form will not be tolerated in our state.
Q: The impact of the ruling might be felt first on Mississippi’s voter identification law. Explain what your plans are for voter ID in light of the ruling.
A: The process for the implementation of voter ID began the day the Supreme Court decision was handed down. The Secretary of State’s Office has proposed the administrative rules for implementing the constitutional voter ID requirement and they are on my website. We are currently in the process of seeking final public comment before the rules are finally adopted. I have also written a letter to the Department of Justice requesting any comment they may have in regard to the proposed regulations.
Open dialog is vital to ensuring every Mississippian who qualifies for a voter identification card receives one, free of charge without undue burden. Our research indicated 99.2 percent of Mississippi voters have identification now. Over 62 percent of our electorate was in favor of the constitutional amendment. I look forward to working with Mississippians across the state to implement their constitutional amendment.