The most mystifying thing to me about the less-than-plausible explanation that four Republican senators and Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant have offered as to why they refused to allow the voter identification bill to move to conference is their seeming hysteria over the “dangers” of early voting.
After the voter identification bill was killed by a handful of Republican senators in the Senate Elections Committee, Republican Lt. Gov. Bryant released this statement: “Nobody wants photo voter ID more than I do. I will continue to fight for photo voter ID to ensure fair and free elections in Mississippi.
“It was part of my campaign as lieutenant governor and has been the cornerstone in my legislative agenda for the past two years. However I am not willing to back down from my Republican conservative principles and accept early voting and other provisions that compromise fair elections,” Bryant said. What compromises?
Early voting isn’t some mysterious, unknown force lurking in the darkness to plunge elections into turmoil. An analysis by the U.S. Voting Project at George Mason University shows that in the 2008 presidential election, some 39.7 million people or about 30 percent of the total votes cast in the election were cast either by early mail-in or early in-person votes – up from 20 percent in the 2004 presidential election.
In the 2008 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama carried 28 states – 13 of which had early voting. Republican nominee John McCain carried 22 states – 17 of which had early voting. The suggestion that early voting somehow represents a danger – even a partisan danger – to Republicans is pretty ludicrous.
With photo voter ID, early in-person voting should be at least as safe as casting one’s vote on Election Day – if voter ID really is what those of us who supported it for the last 20 years believe it will be in thwarting voter fraud.
What has been missing from this debate by the Senate Republicans who killed voter ID is the offer of any specific examples of early voting fraud. What examples of voter fraud generated solely by early voting can they produce from the 31 states that offer some form of early voting?
In the Southeast, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Tennessee all permit no – excuse, in-person early voting at election offices or other satellite locations. The GOP carried every one of those states except Florida.
Getting voter ID in Mississippi would have been well worth the compromise of early voting. But that’s not going to happen now.
Democrats are bulletproof on the voter ID issue now – thanks to Senate Republicans who cavalierly made them bulletproof .
Contact syndicated columnist Sid Salter at (601) 961-7084 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit his blog at clarionledger.com.