Texas voter ID ruling's impact on Miss. unclear

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – Officials with the Mississippi Secretary of State’s office said they would have to study Thursday’s ruling by a three-judge panel striking down the Texas voter identification law before knowing if it would have any impact on Mississippi.
A Mississippi law that would require people to display a government-issued photo identification to vote is pending before the U.S. Department of Justice. Under federal law, all changes to Mississippi election law must be approved by either the Justice Department or the District of Columbia federal court.
The Justice Department rejected the Texas law and officials appealed to the federal court.
In Thursday’s ruling, a three-judge panel from the D.C. District Court said the Texas law placed “strict unforgiving burdens on the poor,” specifically racial minorities.
Pamela Weaver, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, said officials in her office, who have been busy monitoring Hurricane Isaac, would study the ruling to see if it might have an impact on Mississippi’s law.
A three-judge panel also is considering a South Carolina voter ID law after it was rejected by the Justice Department.
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood has said the Justice Department has indicated it will have some type of response on the Mississippi voter ID law in early October.
At one point, Hosemann had suggested he might bypass the Justice Department and go straight to federal court for approval. The 2012 Legislature appropriated funds for Hosemann to pursue that course. But thus far, Hosemann, the state’s chief election official, has not pursued the court action.
In earlier interviews, Hosemann had said there were key differences in the Texas and Mississippi voter ID laws. For instance, a photo ID from a public Mississippi university or college could be used to vote. Under the Texas law, a photo ID from a public university was not listed as acceptable.
Texas officials said Thursday they would appeal the three-judge ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. The nation’s highest court already has upheld a voter ID law enacted by Indiana.
In Mississippi, the plan is to put cameras in each courthouse where people who do not have an acceptable form of ID, such as a driver’s license or student ID, can obtain one free of charge. But the Legislature did not appropriate money to install the cameras.
Across the country, Republican legislators have been pushing strict new voter ID standards, saying it’s needed to cut down on fraud. Democrats have countered that the ID requirements will make it difficult for the poor, elderly and minorities to vote and say voter ID proponents cannot cite instances of fraud that need to be addressed.
bobby.harrison@journalinc.com