Justice department expected to rule in October on state's voter ID law

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – The state Attorney General’s office is expecting to hear from the U.S. Department of Justice in October on the fate of Mississippi’s voter identification law.
Before the law requiring Mississippians to display a government-issued photo ID to vote can go into effect, it must be approved by either the U.S. Department of Justice or the federal courts.
Federal law requires all changes to Mississippi law to gain federal approval to ensure they do not negatively affect minority voting strength.
Jan Schaefer, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Jim Hood, said a response from the Justice Department on the voter ID law is expected sometime in October.
Mississippi voters last November passed a change to the state Constitution requiring that a person have a government-issued photo ID to vote. The specifics of implementation were passed by the Legislature earlier this year and signed into law by Gov. Phil Bryant.
But the Justice Department waited for the rules and regulations that the Secretary of State’s office would put in place to enact the voter ID law before beginning the process of considering whether to preclear the law.
Those rules and regulations were not completed until this summer.
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann has said safeguards would ensure easy access to a photo ID for any registered voter who does not have one.
Under the new law, many current forms of identification, such as a driver’s license or an identification card from a public university or college, would be sufficient to vote.
The plan is to put cameras in each courthouse where people can obtain an ID free of charge.
But the Legislature did not appropriate money to install the cameras during the 2012 session. The Legislature did appropriate money to Hosemann’s office to appeal to the federal court if the Justice Department rejects Mississippi’s voter ID law, as it has similar proposals from other states during the past year.
Hosemann already has indicated the voter ID system would most likely not be in place for this November’s elections.
bobby.harrison@journalinc.com