Mississippi's Voter ID Law Debuts During Primary

The state of Mississippi tomorrow will use its new voter ID law for the first time, culminating a long political fight in a state with a troubled past of voting-rights suppression.

The state of Mississippi tomorrow will use its new voter ID law for the first time, culminating a long political fight in a state with a troubled past of voting-rights suppression.

 

People will be required to show a driver’s license or other government-issued photo identification at the polls during the Republican and Democratic primaries for U.S. House and Senate.

 

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, the state’s top elections official, said about 1,000 people who lacked an acceptable form of photo ID have received a free one from local election clerks.

 

“Mississippi is one big small town,” Hosemann said last week. “When we cast our ballot on Election Day, there is a high probability of knowing the poll workers in the precinct. However, voter ID is not discretionary.”

 

Lawmakers had squabbled about voter ID since the mid-1990s, with supporters saying it would prevent people from voting under others’ names and opponents saying there has been scant evidence of that type of fraud. Critics also said an ID requirement would disproportionately hurt minorities, the poor and older voters.

 

Voters approved a voter ID constitutional amendment in 2011, and legislators put the mandate into law in 2012. Until last summer, Mississippi and other states with a history of racial discrimination had to get federal approval for any changes to elections laws. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling erased that mandate and cleared the way for Mississippi to use its voter ID law, which had been awaiting Justice Department clearance.

Caroline Cournoyer is GOVERNING's senior web editor.
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