The news this week that the Republican-controlled Mississippi Legislature passed and the governor signed a voter ID bill but failed to provide any funding for providing said IDs just goes to show that nobody is really serious about this issue. Requiring an ID without a provision for providing them free of charge to those who don't have them smacks of either a failure to look before you leap or something less dumb but certainly more sinister, excluding those voters too poor to buy their own.
It will be up to the feds to decide whether it was just stupidity or a deliberate attempt to pick and choose who gets to vote. Personally, I think the feds will decide it was both and throw out the law as it has in both Texas and South Carolina.
Don't get me wrong. Voter fraud does exist. But according to Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann's own 2009 municipal elections report only 11 percent of calls received by his office during those elections had to do with voter fraud and, according to his report, "The majority of voter fraud allegations centered around absentee ballots." Photo IDs aren't going to stop that.
Truth is, I'm not sure photo IDs will do anything except prevent legitimate voters from casting ballots. If the law were to take effect, the majority of voters in this state would probably use their driver's licenses, an approved form of photo ID, to prove they are who they say they are. Let's get real. How many of us actually look like those horrid driver's license photos? I hope not too many.
If your driver's license picture looks like mine (and I truly hope for your sake it doesn't) then it looks like it was taken in one of those $1 photo booths at the state fair after too many corn dogs and too much beer. Annie Leibovitz does not work for the DMV.
And how many of us still resemble our driver's license photos years down the road? We change hair styles, hair color, eyeglasses, facial hair (just talking men here ladies, don't get upset) and even eye color these days with contact lenses.
We gain weight, we lose weight and we even occasionally lose teeth (especially here in Mississippi). So how is some poll worker supposed to make a positive identification based on a 4-year-old (and now that the state allows it, 8-year-old) photo? State officials at the time even joked that Mississippians would be happier with the 8-year-old photos because they'd look younger.
No, if the state was really interested in combating voter fraud at the ballot box, it would go to biometrics - retina or fingerprint scans. Or, better yet, purge the voter registration files more frequently.
Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joe Rutherford 5/22/12 new email address is correct for marty