Miss. voter ID will be in effect in upcoming elections

Published 12:35 am Sunday, December 15, 2013

Ben Hillyer | The Natchez Democrat

Ben Hillyer | The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ — Mississippi’s voter identification law, adopted in 2012, will be in effect for the June 3, 2014, primary election.

Residents must show one of 10 specific types of photo ID to vote.

The first nine are a driver’s license from any state; an ID issued by any branch of Mississippi state government; a U.S. passport; a government employee ID card; a firearms license; a student ID from an accredited public or private college; a U.S. military ID; a tribal photo ID or any other photo ID issued by any branch of the federal government.

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Voters may use an expired photo ID to vote as long as it is not more than 10 years old. The expired ID must contain the name and photograph of the voter, and have been validly issued by the federal or a state government.

Residents who do not have a proper photo ID may receive a free state-issued ID beginning in January that will include their name, photo and address.

The IDs will be made and issued at local circuit clerks’ offices.

The Adams County Circuit Clerk’s office will begin this week preparing for training from the Mississippi Secretary of State’s office to use cameras, printing and other equipment that will be used in the process, Circuit Clerk Eddie Walker said.

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann launched an outreach campaign last week to educate residents about voter ID.

Hosemann said his office is now coordinating with circuit clerks’ offices to install the equipment needed to make the cards. The state will also hire, Hosemann said, coordinators that will help implement voter ID in the various counties, including one that will handle Adams County and the rest of southwest Mississippi.

The respective political parties host the June elections, which will consist of party primaries, and Hosemann said his office would be working between now and then to train poll workers if the parties allow and invite them to. With 1,800 precincts across the state, Hosemann said approximately 10,000 workers need training.

Hosemann said his office would also be reaching out to local elected officials, faith-based and other community organizations to help locate residents who will need a voter ID card.

Hosemann said it is important to remember 99 percent of Mississippians have some form of acceptable photo ID that will be necessary to vote.

“That leaves approximately 1 percent who do not have an ID,” he said. “I am very hopeful that we will have everyone with an ID (before June).”

Even voters who do not have a proper photo ID in June can cast affidavit ballots at the polls, Hosemann said. The voter will then have five business days to show an acceptable form of photo ID or apply for a voter ID card at the circuit clerk’s office, Hosemann said.

To get a voter ID card, a voter must bring any one of the following to the circuit clerk’s office, located in the Adams County Courthouse on State Street:

4Any expired but valid photo identity document having the voter’s name and photograph issued by the U.S. government or any U.S. state

4A birth certificate or any other document with the voter’s full legal name, date and place of birth

4Social Security card

4Medicare or Medicaid card

4Mississippi voter registration card

A voter may also bring a utility bill, bank statement, paycheck or government check issued within the preceding six as long as it has the voter’s name and current address or an IRS W-2 form issued within the current calendar year.

Free transportation will be available to voters who need help getting a Mississippi voter ID card. For more information about this program, contact the secretary of state’s voter ID hotline at 1-855-868-3745, visit msvoterid.ms.gov or email MSVoterID@sos.ms.gov.

Walker said it is important to remember that residents do not need a voter ID card to vote if they already have proper photo identification.

Walker anticipates that confusion about that may be an issue his office encounters as the voter ID law is implemented.

“This is brand-new territory for all of us, and it is going to take some time to see if this works well,” he said.

Walker said he has not yet had any calls from voters with questions about voter ID cards. He said a young man who recently turned 18 came into his office to register to vote and did not have a driver’s license because he had never gotten one.

“That’s an example of someone who I think would need a voter ID card,” Walker said.

Mississippians approved a voter ID constitutional amendment in 2011, and legislators put the mandate into law in 2012.

At that time, Mississippi and other states with a history of racial discrimination needed federal approval to alter their election laws. The Mississippi voter ID proposals were still being analyzed by the U.S. Justice Department this past summer. Then, a Supreme Court ruling in late June struck down part of the Voting Rights Act and erased the requirement for federal approval.

Rep. Sam Mims, R-McComb, said, he believes the voter ID requirements will protect the integrity of Mississippi’s elections.

“We should expect honest and fair elections and having to show proof of identification at your polling place is only going to enhance our elections,” he said.

Mims said he believes most people have at least one form of the acceptable photo IDs.

“I do believe most people have identification, and there is a long list of what will qualify,” Mims said. “We have to use our IDs when we go rent a movie or when we go to the grocery store, and I think more people have IDs than (opponents) were saying didn’t.”

Rep. Robert Johnson, D-Natchez, said he believes the voter ID law will make it more cumbersome for people to vote.

“I don’t think it’s necessary, but I think people will adjust to it,” he said.

Johnson said he believes, however, it will take more than one election to effectively implement voter ID requirements.

“The first time we put it into effect, we will see then just how much of a problem it’s going to be,” Johnson said.