Mississippi voters won't need photo IDs at polls

The Biloxi Sun HeraldOctober 3, 2012 

— Attorney General Jim Hood said Tuesday voters in Mississippi won't have to show identification at the polls Nov. 6. The U.S. Department of Justice wants more information from the state before it will rule on whether to allow the new voter ID law to move forward, which could take weeks.

Hood said the DOJ wants more information to determine the proposed changes "neither have a discriminatory purpose nor will have a discriminatory effect."

"All the DOJ is saying in this response is that they need more details of the state's plan in order to make a determination," Hood said. "What this means is that the voter ID requirement will not be in place before the November election. You will not be required to show ID at the poll until DOJ interposes no objections or pre-clears Mississippi's voter ID bill."

Hood said some of the requested information is already compiled and can be sent to DOJ fairly easily, but once the state provides the information, the DOJ has 60 days to respond.

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann issued a statement Tuesday in response to the news from the DOJ, saying he doesn't believe discrimination is an issue.

"The Department of Justice has requested information from the attorney general as to whether the addition of a Constitutional voter identification provision had a discriminatory purpose," Hosemann said. "That issue was decided last November by a vote of all the citizens of Mississippi in a free and fair election.

"The Department of Justice also asked if there is a discriminato

ry effect. We believe the process of implementation authorized by the Mississippi Legislature and the rules and regulations will show no discrimination against any citizen of Mississippi."

Hosemann has said his office has made provisions to offer free photo identifications at circuit clerks' offices in each county courthouse, including looking up and verifying birth certificates on the spot. He said he's negotiating to provide free rides to courthouses for people without transportation. Mississippi also plans to accept some college student identifications.

Hosemann said those provisions should help Mississippi prevail in court even when other states have lost voter ID cases.

On Tuesday, a judge blocked Pennsylvania's voter ID requirement from going into effect on Election Day. The law had been opposed by Democrats who said it was a ploy to defeat President Barack Obama and others who said it would prevent the elderly and minorities from voting.

The decision by Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson on the law requiring each voter to show a valid photo ID could be appealed to the state Supreme Court. Simpson ordered the state not to enforce the photo ID requirement in this year's presidential election but will allow it to go into full effect next year.

A wave of new voter ID requirements have been approved in the past couple years, primarily by Republican-controlled Legislatures.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld Indiana's voter ID law in 2008, and Georgia's top court upheld that state's voter ID law. But a federal court panel struck down Texas' voter ID law, and the state court in Wisconsin has blocked its voter ID laws for now.

The Justice Department cleared New Hampshire's voter ID law earlier this year, and a federal court is reviewing South Carolina's law.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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