The argument for the new requirement - which still must be approved by the U.S. Department of Justice, no sure thing - was to combat voter fraud. But instances of people going to the polls and claiming to be somebody they aren't are rare; no one has provided hard documentation of a serious problem.
Absentee ballots are another matter. If there's a pattern of voting abuse in Mississippi, that's where it is.
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann indicated last week his concern about a spike in the number of absentee ballots cast in recent years. In more than a quarter of Mississippi's 82 counties last year, at least 10 percent of the votes cast were by absentee ballot.
The trend leads Hosemann to believe that absentee ballots have come to be used "as a form of early voting," something other states have but that Mississippi has so far rejected.
An upswing in absentee voting isn't necessarily a bad thing. Years ago, before state law was changed to expand the reasons for casting an absentee ballot, the restrictions were unreasonable. Flexibility that takes into account legitimate reasons for not being able to get to the polls on election day and permits absentee voting is a good thing for the democratic process, which is enhanced by the broadest participation possible.
But the Secretary of State's Office report found that in many cases, people are being allowed to vote absentee without listing a reason, as required by law. That needs correcting, which is a matter of proper enforcement by circuit clerks.
And the real warning signs of abuse come in looking at the number of ballots witnessed by one person. All absentee ballots must have a witness, and Hosemann's office found cases of one individual witnessing 163. In another situation, a single witness signed 27 ballots - at only two addresses.
Additionally, the report found absentee ballots accepted in some counties without proper witnessing.
Large numbers of ballots witnessed by the same person suggest possible mischief on behalf of a candidate, even if it's technically legal. And state law puts no limit on the number of absentee ballots one person can sign as a witness.
All of this suggests that it's worth examining ways to tighten absentee ballot laws without discouraging legitimate voting. Attention focused on proven and potential absentee voting abuses, and legislative remedies to address them, would be a greater deterrent to voter fraud than voter ID is ever likely to be.