By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – While Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said he would like for Mississippi’s new voter identification law to be enacted in time for the November general election, that is “unlikely” at this point.
The voter ID requirement must be approved by either the U.S. Department of Justice or by the federal courts, as are all changes to Mississippi election law.
Once the voter ID requirement is approved, the state must place cameras in circuit clerk’s offices in all 82 courthouses to allow people who currently do not have a government-issued photo ID a place to obtain one free of charge.
In response to a Daily Journal inquiry Monday, Secretary of State spokeswoman Pamela Weaver said in an email, “As much as we would like for the requirement to be implemented by November, the feasibility of implementing the requirement by that time is unlikely.”
Another step in the process would be for the Legislature to appropriate funds to place the cameras in the courthouses. It did not provide those funds during the 2012 session, but it did appropriate at least $395,000 to Hosemann to hire private attorneys to pursue voter ID approval in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.
Under the federal Voting Rights Act, Mississippi election changes must be approved by either the Justice Department or by the District of Columbia federal court. Normally, the state goes to the Justice Department first, but Hosemann has not ruled out the possibility of going straight to federal court.
On Monday, Weaver said, “The Secretary of State’s Office plans on exhausting all efforts to get voter identification passed as quickly as possible, with the least amount of expense to the taxpayers.”
The attorney general’s office is tasked with submitting election changes to the Justice Department. Jan Schaefer, spokeswoman for AG Jim Hood, said voter ID was submitted in December after voters in November approved a ballot initiative.
The AG’s office was told the Justice Department needed the follow-up legislation passed during the 2012 session and additional rules and regulations developed by the Secretary of State’s office to operate a voter ID system before it could rule on the issue.
Weaver said Monday the Secretary of State’s office is still developing those rules and regulations.
The Justice Department recently struck down voter ID laws in Texas and South Carolina. Both states have taken the Justice Department to court.
Anyone who does not have a proper ID should contact the Secretary of State’s office at 1-855-868-3745. More information also can be obtained at www.MSVoterID.ms.gov or by email at MSVoterID@sos.ms.gov.