Proposal would tighten Mississippi voter ID law

Published 2:42 pm Saturday, February 2, 2019

A proposal would set a shorter deadline for Mississippi voters to show photo identification if they forget it on Election Day.

Since 2014, the state has required people to show government-issued identification, such as a driver’s license, before voting.

Anyone who forgets an ID may cast an affidavit ballot at the precinct but must go to a courthouse within five days to show the identification. If they don’t show up, their ballot is rejected.

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Senate Bill 2242 would shorten the five days to three days.

Senate Elections Committee Chairman Kevin Blackwell, a Republican from Southaven, said some election commissioners around the state have told him the five-day window slows the process of certifying election results.

A Hinds County election commissioner, Zakiya Summers, said she objects to a shorter deadline because it might be difficult for people who work full-time and live far from a courthouse to go back and show an ID within three days.

“We should not be in the business of limiting access to voters,” Summers said.

However, Danny Klein, chairman of the DeSoto County Elections Commission, said only a few people forget to take their photo identification to the polls each election. Some of those people quickly go to the courthouse to show the ID so their vote will count, but most simply never show back up, he said.

Speaking of a three-day window to show ID, Klein said: “I don’t think it will put anybody out.”

Klein said waiting for people to return with photo ID puts other parts of the election certification process on hold, including any work by a resolution board that waits until after the five-day window to discuss whether ballots should be tossed out for various reasons.

The bill passed the Senate Elections Committee on Thursday. It has also been sent to the Senate Accountability, Efficiency and Transparency Committee.

The chairman of that committee, Republican Sen. John Polk of Hattiesburg, said he will decide whether to bring the bill up for a vote before a Tuesday deadline. The bill will die if the committee does not consider it. If the bill passes the Accountability committee, it moves on to the full Senate for more work.

Mississippi lawmakers argued for more than a decade over creating a voter ID law before voters approved one through a statewide referendum. Supporters said requiring photo identification would prevent people from impersonating others at the polls, and opponents said an ID requirement would disproportionately hurt poor and black people in a state with a history of voter suppression.