OUR OPINION: Contentious voter ID has a routine debut

Had the Republican U.S. Senate race not turned into a cliffhanger, a story that would have gotten more attention in the wake of the June 3 primary was the state’s initial foray into voter ID.

For the first time, Mississippi voters had to present a government-issued photo identification as they checked in at the polls. For an issue that had been so contentious in Mississippi for so long, the debut of voter ID was pretty routine.

Nearly 400,000 Mississippians voted. Only 513 of them, according to Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, showed up without an ID in the 79 of 82 counties from which he had a report. All of the 513 voters cast an affidavit ballot. Of those, 177 came back within the seven-day deadline to show an ID at their local circuit clerk’s office and have their vote counted.

Hosemann deserves a good share of the credit for the generally smooth implementation of the law passed by the Legislature after the voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment in 2011 requiring it. His office aggressively publicized its coming and made a good-faith effort to assist those Mississippians who didn’t have an ID in getting one. And certainly local circuit clerks and poll workers did their part as well.

“We found no one was denied the right to vote in Mississippi,” Hosemann said in reporting the results in a press conference last week.

Opponents of voter ID had suggested for the nearly two decades that the issue languished in the Legislature that having to present a photo ID would, at a minimum, discourage voter participation and potentially be a form of intimidation to some who remembered the days when black Mississippians were systematically denied the right to vote. While proponents of the law never demonstrated that fraud of the sort that voter ID would prevent was widespread, neither was the argument against it convincing.

In this day and age, people of all ages are routinely required to present photo identification for an assortment of purposes. The universal right to vote in Mississippi was bought with the blood not only of soldiers who died on foreign soil defending the nation’s freedoms but of the civil rights martyrs who died right here in Mississippi so that everyone could exercise this fundamental right of citizenship. Reasonable measures designed to protect the sanctity of the ballot box honor those sacrifices.

Mississippi’s voter ID law is reasonable and shouldn’t be seen as an undue burden. Its first run on an election day in the state helped make that clear.