The Mississippi Senate Elections Committee displayed bad judgment Tuesday in voting to kill a promising photo voter identification bill rather than amending it to set up probable conference committee negotiations.
The bill contained provisions objected to by a committee majority, and a motion to table (to kill) was made by Sen. Merle Flowers of DeSoto County, which passed.
The committee could have substituted its original bill, or it could have amended the House-passed bill. What is gained by killing the bill?
Photo identity proponents, including Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, sought a compromise, and Republican Sen. Terry Burton, chairman of the Senate Elections Committee, wasn’t happy with the process.
Republican Sen. Joey Fillingane, who voted to kill the bill, seeks to have a constitutional amendment to require photo voter ID. An amendment isn’t necessary. Voting procedures should be governed by statute.
The committee’s decision dashes hopes this year for success in enacting a baseline goal of required photo voter identity.
The bill contained provisions for early voting and age exemption for senior citizens, but those issues are negotiable.
In the larger picture, legislative bodies across the United States use committee amendments to push bills toward conference committees where differences often can be resolved and a report made that passes, leading to a law supported by a majority.
Tuesday was the deadline for committee consideration, so the only way the issue can be revived this session is by a rules suspension, which involves a two-thirds vote. It’s not likely.
The Elections Committee majority ill-served all who have worked and negotiated in good faith to finally resolve a years-long divide about voter identification. What a shame that a good opportunity has been wasted.