Bad public policy, like bad personal decisions, takes a lot of justification to get folks in your corner. So it is with Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann's voter exit poll, which he commissioned to find out who and how many Mississippians lack an ID.
Few media sources have done more than parrot Hosemann's conclusion, that "only" 1.7 percent of Mississippi voters (about 40,000 people) lack one of eight forms of acceptable voter ID, and that Hosemann has all the bases covered to ensure everyone who wants to vote will be able to do so. That's one way of looking at it.
A quick look at the actual data, however, gives a different view. The poll's data prove exactly what voter ID opponents have been saying for years: The people most likely to be disenfranchised are the poor, minorities (African Americans, in Mississippi's case) and younger people.
We think that's a remarkable conclusion given that Hosemann has accused reputable researchers of being intentionally misleading when they came to the same bottom line. Imagine his chagrin when the results came out.
There's a lot more that Hosemann isn't saying, of course, such as why he's pushing voter ID at all. You've heard it here before: Voter ID is a solution looking for a problem. But the state attorney general's office has prosecuted only 38 cases of voter fraud in five years, and the majority of those involve absentee balloting, which won't be resolved by voter IDs at the polls.
Hosemann, along with a cadre of like-minded Republicans across the nation, would love for their constituents to believe that voter ID is good for democracy. But the fact that at-the-polls voter fraud is virtually non-existent speaks volumes about a darker motive: voter suppression.
Voter ID isn't about protecting voters at all; it's about winning elections. A few Republicans have publicly admitted as much, though none in Mississippi, yet.
Beyond the underhanded motivations, Mississippi taxpayers will be on the hook to pay the bill for implementing this unnecessary burden. If you're not upset by the civil-rights implications or if you're not livid about how voter ID will disenfranchise voters instead of expanding the franchise, you should be furious over having to foot the bill for unneeded regulation.
Beyond what it will cost to ferry those without transportation to get IDs, the cost of cameras, card production and extending hours in many locations--and defending lawsuits--the state could lose revenue from fees generated for non-driver's license IDs.
How much? No one knows.
We find it unconscionable that public officials want to add unnecessary costs to a state budget that can't manage either adequate education funding or health care for its citizens. Voter ID is the wrong priority for Mississippians. You may want to let Hosemann know.