Protect your identity at the polls

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Identity theft is an everyday worry in America.

Experts suggest somewhere between 8 and 10 million Americans fall victim to these crimes each year.

Entire industries are being built around protecting one’s identity and preventing the theft of it.

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Many of us know all the advice — shred all documents, never tell anyone your Social Security number or any bank account information over the phone.

We’re all becoming paranoid of becoming a victim of crooks in our personal lives, but in our public lives, it’s the Wild, Wild West.

Mississippians protect the sanctity of our personal identity everywhere except where it may count the most — the ballot box.

The state continues to use a rather antiquated system in which its honest citizens simply walk up and say, “I’m John Smith.” And if John Smith hasn’t voted yet, they hand the person a ballot.

Imagine what we’d do if a complete stranger walked up to us in a store and said, “I’m from the your credit card company, could I inspect your credit card for a moment?”

We’d likely laugh and walk away or perhaps call security.

Mississippians have a chance to shore up this gaping hole in our voting system in November through a statewide ballot initiative aimed at requiring voters show proof of their identity prior to voting.

State issued IDs would be made available to anyone who does not have one already for free and voters who have an ID but forget to bring it on Election Day can still vote — by affidavit ballot.

The benefits of the initiative are clear. It would quickly reduce the amount of voter identity theft our state may experience. The only negatives are in our minds — Mississippians don’t like change, but in this case, we desperately need it.