By Steve Wilson | Mississippi Watchdog
Mississippi might be an example to the rest of the nation on voter identification.
The Mississippi voter ID law received its shakedown cruise in the June 3 primary elections and passed muster with only a few issues.
Of the 397,822 ballots cast, 513 voters did not have a photo ID compliant with the law and 177 returned with ID later to have their votes counted. Missing the Tuesday deadline were 298 voters whose ballots were rejected because the voter never returned with an acceptable ID. Thirteen more were rejected for other reasons.
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said the success of the new law is proof the state doesn’t need federal oversight of its elections and redistricting.
“What this means … is over 99.9 percent of Mississippians cast their ballot with a voter ID,” Hosemann said. “No other state I’ve ever seen has shown that kind of response. We’re very pleased with the number,s and I think it reflects that Mississippi is able to conduct its own elections and have people show up with the constitutionally required documents without any missteps.”
Under the constitutional amendment approved by the voters in 2011, and a law passed by the Legislature in 2012, voters could present 10 different forms of photo identification, including driver’s licenses, military ID and passports. Or voters could receive an ID from their circuit clerk’s office, which began issuing voter ID cards in January. Hosemann said circuit clerks around the state issued more than 2,000 identification cards to voters.
Voters could even use an expired ID, even in the ID is up to a decade old. If the voter couldn’t present identification, they could cast an affidavit ballot and return within five days with identification to the circuit clerk’s office to have their vote counted.
The Secretary of State’s office dispatched an employee to each of the state’s 82 counties to assist circuit clerks with the ID law.
The election was the culmination of a long process for Hosemann and his staff. Starting in 2013, Hosemann appeared at town hall meetings, churches and in an award-winning public service announcement on TV to explain the law’s requirements.
The Obama administration’s Department of Justice has sued Texas and North Carolina over their voter ID laws under the 1965 Civil Rights Act. Rather than having an adversarial relationship with the Justice Department, Hosemann said his department has built a productive relationship with the Justice Department that helped the state avoid any legal challenges.
New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, a major foe of voter ID laws, predicted before June 3’s elections that more than 48,000 voters in Mississippi would be disenfranchised by the new law.
Hosemann took a shot at the prediction.
“We didn’t disenfranchise anyone. They were off a little,” Hoseman said of the Brennan Center. “It’s particularly pleasing to me, knowing the history in the state of Mississippi, that we closed that chapter about Mississippi having preclearance or judicial fiat to hold elections. We don’t need that.”
Contact Steve Wilson at [email protected]