Why do Mississippi voters have to show an approved photo ID at the polls in order to vote?
Is this the answer to a crime wave of voters falsely identifying themselves at the polls? If that has been going on then why hasn’t anybody heard about it? Perhaps Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann is the only one in the state who heard it.
So he’s appointed himself protector-in-chief to stop the scourge of voter impersonation from spreading.
Now, let’s examine what imposition of passing a screen test in order to vote is all about.
Voter ID advocates won’t want to hear this, but in reality they’re charging every prospective voter with being guilty of impersonation until an unskilled poll worker judges him innocent.
This even after he is shown to be on the registration book and signs his name to the voter list. Shouldn’t that be enough for a citizen to exercise his fundamental right to choose officials who will represent him in government?
Hosemann, within hours after the June 3 party primaries, began crowing that the rollout of the state’s new voter ID law had gone so smoothly it put controversy over the law to rest for good. Columnist Sid Salter followed a couple days later echoing Hosemann’s declaration that the voter ID law was now “out of the way.”
Not so fast say others like Carroll Rhodes, attorney for Mississippi’s NAACP. “It’s not nearly a dead issue,” Rhodes told me.
On May 30, six organizations that have opposed the photo ID mandate heard Mississippians testify how they encountered difficulty in registering or voting. One man said he had called Hosemann’s office for a ride to the circuit clerk’s office to get a free ID card as Hosemann has offered in a TV commercial spot. When someone answered according to the witness, “they questioned me at length, asking for personal information.” At the end of the interrogation, the witness said, “I was told to call another number that didn’t answer.”
The May 30 testimony, Rhodes said, will be forwarded to the House Judiciary Committee in Washington that is considering a bill to restore parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act struck down by the Supreme Court last year.
But Rhodes said his side is especially encouraged by the recent decision of federal Judge Lynn Adelman in Wisconsin blocking enforcement of Wisconsin’s voter ID law, holding it unconstitutional under the post-Civil War 14th Amendment barring states from abridging citizens’ right to vote.
In public statements Hosemann implies that Mississippi is on more solid ground than most other states because its voter ID was inserted by initiative in the 1890 constitution. He evidently forgets that the state once had a poll tax and the infamous “read and understand” voter registration provisions in its 1890 constitution.
How many prospective voters had to cast affidavit ballots on June 3 because they didn’t have an ID suitable to a bailiff working the polls was unclear a week after the first primary. But think of the many instances of humiliation there must have been. Former Gov. William Winter, perhaps the state’s most noted citizen, tells me a poll worker scanned him up and down to see if he was the same guy as the one on his license.
Syndicated columnist Bill Minor has covered Mississippi politics since 1947. Contact him through Ed Inman firstname.lastname@example.org.