Voter identification is fair and needed

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 7, 2003

It sounds so simple: You show up to vote, you offer proof of identification that you are who you say you are.

And passing a law that says people should do this should be easy, right?

Not in Mississippi, where Jim Crow laws kept so many black people from voting before the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965.

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But Mississippi House members have managed to pass a bill that includes voter ID provisons. The Senate has proposed similar legislation, and lawmakers will likely meet in committee later to hammer out a compromise.

On Thursday, many black lawmakers voted against the bill &045; one even saying it is &uot;a slap in African-American faces” because of the perception it will create &045; and the ghosts of the past it will inevitably resurrect.

But if you take a close look at the bill, it is fair. A person can show one of 19 forms of identification &045; such as a driver license, a passport or a food stamp card. If a person does not have a form of identification when voting, he or she can sign a sworn statement affirming identity.

We understand that politicians are worried about the perception voter ID creates, but the reality is this bill is fair &045; and it reflects the reality that we no longer live in the era of Jim Crow laws.

But perhaps most important about this bill is its original intent: putting Mississippi in compliance with federal election laws established after the 2000 presidential election debacle. If we pass this law, we could get up to $34 million in federal funds to help uphold that law.

If the bill &045; which is basically enabling legislation &045; doesn’t pass, we still have to make the election changes and we don’t get the federal money.

How’s that for reality?