This map represents the different types of Voter Identification laws in the country. Green:States that require photo ID, Yellow:States that request photo ID, Blue: States that require non-photo ID, Gray: State with no photo ID.
Photo by Wiki Commons
Backers of voter identification in Mississippi and other states say the laws will eliminate voter fraud--but it may be a solution looking for a problem.
Between 2000 and 2010, the country saw only 13 plausible cases of voter fraud, but since 2001 almost 1,000 voter ID laws have passed in 46 states across the country, including Mississippi, reports The Brennan Center for Justice, a non-partisan group in New York City that focuses on fundamental issues of justice including voter rights. In fact, Indiana, a state that recently introduced a voter ID requirement, went before the U.S. Supreme Court to defend the bill, representatives from the state could not give one instance of voter fraud in their state's history.
The Wall Street Journal reported that though Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach cited 221 cases of voter fraud in his state between 1997 and 2010, only seven brought convictions, but none related to voter fraud. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said that Wisconsin was "absolutely riddled with voter fraud," Mother Jones reports. However, in 2004 the state only found seven total votes that were fraudulent.
The Associated Press reports that cases of citizens' votes being thrown out due to voter ID laws are far more numerous than the voter-fraud claim that got the laws enacted. In Georgia and Indiana, states where harshest laws were passed, 1,200 were tossed out during the 2008 presidential election.
And in Mississippi, very few cases of voter fraud are on the books. Most ballot fraud here occurs with absentee voting, which voter ID will not address.
Voter ID opponents say the laws are designed to make it harder for people, especially minorities, to vote. In 2011, 12 states introduced policies that would require birth certificates to vote, while only 48 percent of women in this country have a birth certificate with their legal name on it, the Brennan Center reports. Infoplease.com reports in 2010, women made up 46.2 percent of voters in congressional elections. Last year Florida and Texas passed laws that will make it harder for citizens to organize voter registration drives. Twelve percent of minority voters use drives to register--twice the number of white voters.
Sen. Kenneth Wayne Jones, a Democrat from Canton and chairman of the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus, warned on the floor of the state Senate that attempts to restrict minority voting rights always end up on the wrong side of history.
"We beat you every time. We're gonna beat you this time," Jones told his colleagues.
But Gov. Phil Bryant said that the law will not disproportionately affect voters of color when he signed the new voter ID law in May and pointed out that the state has more African American elected officials than any state--from votes that occurred prior to voter identification laws. He also did not mention that Mississippi has not elected a statewide black official since Reconstruction.
Mike Bennett, a Republican state senator in Florida, is a supporter of tougher voting laws but says it is not about reducing the number of legitimate votes cast. "I want people in Florida to want to vote as bad as that person in Africa who walks 200 miles across the desert," Sen. Bennett told TampaBayonline.com.
Also see: "Putting a Price Tag on Voter ID"