Miss. attempts at voter ID law have failed

Published 5:53 pm Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann says a Supreme Court ruling on voter ID shows the court’s interest in protecting the integrity of the ballot box goes hand-in-hand with ensuring the public’s confidence in the election process.

Mississippi does not require voter identification at the polls. Legislative efforts to enact a law, including an attempt this year, have failed.

The issue also is tied up in the federal courts. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is considering an appeal of a voting rights case from Mississippi, in which a federal judge ordered the state to implement voter ID in time for the 2009 election.

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Voter ID has been a hotly debated topic for years in Mississippi. Supporters say requiring voters to show a driver’s license or other identification would prevent election fraud. Opponents say there has been no evidence of people voting under false identities. They also say some older black voters who lived through the violence of the Jim Crow era could be intimidated by an ID requirement.

Derrick Johnson, president of the Mississippi NAACP, said Monday’s decision will not affect the case pending before the 5th Circuit. The NAACP was allowed to join the appeal of the federal judge’s ruling.

The NAACP and others said the Legislature — not the federal court — should decide such issues as voter ID.

“The decision simply says a state has a right to enact a law,” Johnson said. “Mississippi has not decided to enact such legislation. It is the complete authority of the state Legislature.”

Johnson said the decision has nothing to do with the lawsuit.

Hosemann had pushed a voter ID bill in 2008 session as part of a number election law changes.

The bill passed the Senate but died in the House. It would have required voters to show a valid photo ID, a government document with their name and address on it or a social security card. Acceptable photo ID includes driver’s licenses, passports, student and employee cards. Those without ID could vote by affidavit.

On Monday, the Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s strict photo ID requirement, which Democrats and civil rights groups said would deter poor, older and minority voters from casting ballots. Its backers said it was needed to prevent fraud.

The law “is amply justified by the valid interest in protecting ’the integrity and reliability of the electoral process,”’ Justice John Paul Stevens.

“Mississippians don’t need the nation’s highest court to tell them voter ID protects the integrity and reliability of the electoral process, deters voter fraud and protects public confidence which encourages citizen participation,” Hosemann said.