OUR OPINION: Voter ID outreach is critical for state

Barring significant developments such as a court challenge, Mississippi’s voter ID law is set to take effect with the congressional primary elections next June.

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said last week in an interview with the Daily Journal that implementation efforts, including outreach to people who may not already have government-issued photo identification, are on schedule.

It’s been a long and contentious road. For more than two decades, voter ID bills languished in the Legislature. Petitioners got the issue on the ballot in 2011 and Mississippi voters decisively approved it as an amendment to the state constitution.

It’s been a racially charged issue, given Mississippi’s history of discrimination against black voters and claims by opponents that it was intended to suppress participation by minority and poor voters.

Proponents claimed it was necessary to combat voter fraud and that ID use is now so much a part of everyday life that it shouldn’t be seen as intrusive or burdensome in voting.

The arguments are both sides are exaggerated. Evidence of fraud of the type that voter ID would correct is minimal, and the charge of voter suppression and intimidation is overwrought.

Nevertheless, if we are to have a voter ID law – and it’s hard to mount a really convincing argument against it – its implementation should be well-crafted to avoid the pitfalls opponents see in it. Hosemann knows this, and he is thankfully aware of and responsive to the scrutiny Mississippi will be under when the law takes effect.

The future of the law had been unclear. The U.S. Department of Justice had delayed its approval, required under the federal Voting Rights Act, for more than a year and a half.

Then came a U.S. Supreme Court decision which essentially nullified the pre-clearance provision of the Voting Rights Act for states like Mississippi and Hosemann has proceeded with implementation.

That includes significant efforts to identify and equip, free of charge, people who may not have a proper ID, thought to be a very small portion of the electorate but one that can’t be ignored without risking court challenges. And Hosemann has taken the initiative to seek input from the Department of Justice to help avoid potential litigation.

States such as Texas and North Carolina have seen their laws challenged, and Mississippi has the advantage of learning from those cases to avoid the mistakes that got them there. The last thing this state needs is a costly and contentious court fight on voter ID.

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  • barney fife

    I have no trouble producing an ID for voting. To me, it’s no big deal.
    However, I’m curious. Is voter fraud really an issue in this state?

    • Guest Person

      No – it is a law in search of a problem. It is a well known fact that fewer people voting benefits Republicans. It is also a well know fact that even small obstacales prevent the working poor, under educated and seniors from voting.

      What our real problem is – we don’t have enough people participating in the voting process with less than half of our voters chosing our leaders.

      What I find hard to take is that we have a section of our populace that will be more than happy to send our soliders overseas to fight for the idea of democracy regardless of the cost in blood and treasure but think nothing of preventing people here at home from voting.

  • LeftinMS

    “if we are to have a voter ID law – and it’s hard to mount a really convincing argument against it”
    One convincing argument against it is that it is un-Constitutional. This is no different than a poll tax or a literacy test.

    • Pragmatic

      So you are saying that showing a picture ID (which most already have) is the same as having to pay a poll tax or taking a literacy test? Do you just dream this stuff up or do you actually believe it? You already sign your name on the roll when you vote, what is the difference in showing your state issued ID? And how is it unconstitutional? When the Constitution was written only white male land owners could vote; even the Bill Of Rights did not outline any differences. The SCOTUS decision did not take away any rights from any individuals or groups. Maybe, just maybe, this will alleviate situations where poll workers vote for 6 different family members. Or maybe it will keep mayor’s wives from heading to the city lockup and “helping” criminals fill out their absentee ballots. We can always hope.

      • Guest Person

        LOL – the Voter ID law does not address any of those examples you posted but our existing laws did.
        Adding extra steps is just adding road blocks – the thing is every time the Republicans do this it just fires up the groups to vote more. Look at Florida – people flocked in droves to vote regardless of what road blocks were put up.

        • barney fife

          The current situation in DC — that little government shut down thing — ought to have people treating the next national election day with the same zeal as they’ll attack Black Friday with a few weeks later.

      • LeftinMS

        The end game is the same = keep voters of certain demographics home. “Voter Fraud” is a red herring, and everyone knows it.

      • Thile

        How would voter ID resolve any of the problems you cited? Many improprieties in municipal elections occur at the local election commission level–particularly with pollworkers.