For the first time in the history of Mississippi elections, voters will need some form of photo identification to cast a ballot during June 3’s federal congressional primary.
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann visited the Lowndes County Courthouse on Monday to monitor preparations. He said between 600-700 people who did not have a photo ID have gotten one in time for the election and Hosemann expects that number to grow.
In 2011 62 percent of voters approved an amendment to the state constitution requiring photo IDs. The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for the move.
The state legislature allocated $226,000 for equipment to implement the new law, including the cost of advertising. Some 1.5 million pamphlets and posters have been distributed across the state, Hosemann said.
Throughout the process, Hosemann said he’s paid special attention to ensure the change goes smoothly. He is also working to dissolve any speculation that the new voter ID process is akin to voter suppression tactics used in Mississippi elections of the past, particularly during the Civil Rights era.
No litigation has been filed against the state as of today. Hosemann believes that is an indication that all political parties are satisfied with how his office has handled the transition.
“We had a whole history here, and part of this process, I think, is to close that chapter,” Hosemann said. “We want the Mississippi electorate to be focused on health care, education, jobs, the things that are important. Not historical barriers. We’re not going to repeat history. We’re not going to replicate those problems, and we haven’t.”
In the 45 days leading up to the June 3 election, anyone eligible for an ID can go to their local circuit clerk’s office and be given a temporary voter ID that can be used for that election, Hosemann said.
In order to get an ID, a voter must bring one of the following to the circuit clerk’s office: a photo identity document with the voter’s name and picture issued by the U.S. Government or any state; a birth certificate or other document with a voter’s full legal name, date and place of birth; a Social Security card; a Medicare or Medicaid card; a Mississippi voter registration card; or a utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, government check or W-2 form from the previous six months.
Anyone who can show one of the following forms of ID on election day don’t need to get a card and are not eligible for one: A driver’s license; a photo issued by a state department; a U.S. passport; a government employee ID; a firearms license; a student photo ID issued by an accredited state university or community college; a U.S. military ID; or a tribal photo ID.
An expired photo ID can be used provided it is not more than 10 years old, Hosemann said.
Eligible voters who cast absentee ballots by mail and voters with religious objections to being photographed are exempted from the new regulations, Hosemann said. A voter who doesn’t have a form of ID on election day can fill out an affidavit ballot and present a photo ID within five business days.
Lowndes County Circuit Clerk Haley Salazar said so far only three IDs have been issued at the courthouse in Columbus.
“We want to be proactive in getting everybody in here (that is eligible),” Salazar said. “It’s fast, easy and free.”
Hosemann said as the transition to Voter ID is complete, his office will study the possibility of early voting between now and the next legislative session and work to develop a strategy that would be satisfactory to circuit clerks statewide. What he will not be considering, unlike other states, is the possibility of online voting, citing security concerns.
“You’ll see us beginning a pretty in-depth analysis of whether or not to allow online registration and you’ll also see us looking into early voting,” he said.
“I don’t see us doing online voting. I don’t have confidence in the security features of that.”
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.