Federal appeals court moves up hearing on Miss. Democrats lawsuit

Published 5:54 pm Tuesday, March 4, 2008

A federal appeals court will hear arguments Wednesday in a case in which the state of Mississippi was ordered to adopt a party registration system and enact a voter identification law in time for the 2009 elections.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had originally docketed the case for Thursday but revised the schedule in late February to move the case up a day. The hearing will be held in New Orleans.

U.S. District Judge Allen Pepper ruled last year that the state should reregister all voters to allow people to declare themselves as Democrats, Republicans or members of another party. Or, Pepper said, people could register as unaffiliated with any party. Pepper said Mississippi must restructure its party primary system by Aug. 31, 2008.

Under current law, Mississippians do not declare a party affiliation when they register to vote.

The Mississippi Democratic Party filed suit in 2006 seeking to keep nonmembers from voting in its primaries. Some black Democrats have complained that whites sympathetic to Republicans have been voting in the Democratic primaries.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the state and Mississippi’s Democratic and Republican parties have filed individual appeals with the 5th Circuit, which consolidated the cases.