OUR OPINION: Use the Justice ID path, then decide in court

By NEMS Daily Journal

Mississippi’s voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2011 mandating government-issued photo identification for all voters, but as with many other complex legal issues, moving from approval to implementation isn’t as easy as it looks.
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said this week, through spokeswoman Pamela Weaver, that it’s unlikely voter ID will be implemented in time for the November 2012 elections: presidential, congressional, senatorial and state judiciary.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 requires that certain states, all with a documented history of voter discrimination based on race or ethnicity, must submit voting law changes to the U.S. Department of Justice for what’s called preclearance, or go directly to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, and seek a ruling, thus bypassing DOJ.
Mississippi is on the list.
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood submitted the amendment in January, but Justice replied and said Mississippi also must submit follow-up legislation passed during the 2012 session, and the rules and regulations, which are an administrative task for the secretary of state’s office, for a final review.
The rules and regulations remain under development.
The world of honest elections won’t end if Mississippi does not have voter ID for 2012. It is a reasonable amendment and law, but it was not pushed to passage by any great revelation of election illegalities or voting by illegal electors.
Hosemann is making an honest and thorough effort to submit clear rules and regulations, and he then faces getting every courthouse equipped with cameras to make voter ID cards for people who don’t have a state-issued driver’s license or some other acceptable personal photo ID.
Hosemann has $395,000 with which to hire Washington lawyers to seek approval in the District of Columbia court, but that’s not yet necessary.
Hosemann is fully capable of directing the writing of fair and even-handed rules and regulations for the new statute. Complete them and submit them.
If Mississippi’s changes go through the DOJ process and are accepted, objections already filed duly noted, the state will have saved $395,000 for at least a time.
If, however, a lawsuit is filed by those objecting in principle to the law on grounds that it is racially discriminatory, Mississippi will be forced to defend its law. The same applies if DOJ rejects it.
Hosemann is making a good-faith effort to get the change enacted “with the least amount of expense to the taxpayers.”
Use the DOJ process fully, then decide.