UPDATED: Hosemann: Brennan Center 'Deceptive'

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Courtesy Ward Schaefer

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann has received low turnout from people seeking free voter IDs.

— In a sharply worded response to "The Challenge of Obtaining Voter Identification," a report issued last week by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann barely stopped short of calling the authors a pack of liars.

“The Brennan Center ‘Report’ is purposely inaccurate and is misleading in its statements about Mississippi," Hosemann said in a press release issued earlier today.

The report estimated that as many as 500,000 Americans in 10 states that passed voter-ID laws recently may have serious problems in obtaining a government-issued voter ID card. Among the major barriers the authors identified are the costs of obtaining supporting documentation and lack of transportation. It also identified Mississippi among four states with "part-time ID-issuing offices … in the rural regions with the highest concentrations of people of color and people in poverty." Nearly 750,000 Mississippians live more than 10 miles away from those offices, the Brennan Center Report concluded, of which 48,000 also do not have transportation.

Based on the report, numerous news outlets loudly trumpeted that 48,000 Mississippians could be disenfranchised by Mississippi's Voter ID law. The report also cited Mississippi as one of three states (the others are Wisconsin and Alabama) with "less than half of all ID-issuing offices … open five days a week."

Hoseman's statement said the report "purposely" excludes 92 offices located in all 82 counties open full time, from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., however the secretary of state did not say what percentage of the state's total offices those 92 make up.

"[T]he ‘Report’ exaggerates the population number, then multiplies it by the ‘estimated’ number of people without transportation, to provide a totally fraudulent number of 48,329 voting citizens without a vehicle more than ten (10) miles from a state ID issuing office. This statement is false and the Brennan Center had knowledge to the contrary when the ‘Report’ was issued," Hosemann stated.

The Jackson Free Press reported (and Pamela Weaver, spokeswoman for the secretary of state's office confirmed) July 5 on Mississippi's "catch-22" regarding identification needed to obtain a Voter ID. "Although Mississippi's restrictive law is not yet in force, citizens there without ID face a particularly perverse set of rules," the report states. "To secure government-issued photo ID, many voters will need a birth certificate. Yet the state requires a government-issued photo ID to obtain a certified copy of a birth certificate."

"What they do not say is each circuit clerk will be able to access the National Association for Public Health Statistics to verify available birth certificate data across the country at no cost to the applicant by simply obtaining basic information from the applicant," Hosemann countered in his statement.

This reporter was unable to confirm this information. Calls to Weaver asking how Mississippians would understand Hosemann's claim were not returned. Information on the Mississippi Department of Health's website regarding obtaining a certified copy of a birth certificate make no mention of Hosemann's assertion. It does, however, list the following as ID requirements for obtaining a birth certificate:

  • Photo driver's license
  • State-issued photo ID
  • Employment ID
  • School, college or university ID
  • US Military ID
  • Tribal ID
  • Alien registration/Permanent residence card
  • Temporary resident card
  • U.S. passport

The words "PHOTO IDENTIFICATION REQUIRED" (in all caps) are the largest thing on the downloadable application.

A search on the secretary's website for the term "voter identification" produced no results pertaining to how citizens might obtain the free Voter IDs the state has offered to Mississippians.

The Jackson Free Press contacted the Brennan Center earlier and forwarded Hoseman's statement for a response. We expect that response shortly and will update this story at that time.

Update 9:25 p.m.: Statement from Lawrence Norden, Deputy Director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice:

“The Brennan Center stands by our report ‘The Challenge of Obtaining Voter Identification,’ which looks at the impact of new photo identification requirements to vote in 10 states.

“The Brennan Center notes in the report that the new Mississippi law would require county offices to issue IDs. We did not include these offices in our calculation because they are still untested as voting ID issuing offices. The law does not detail the hours or process for issuing photo IDs at these offices. Because the Mississippi law is not yet in effect, and given the problems in other states with county offices issuing IDs, we could not assess the extent to which Mississippians would be able to access IDs at these offices. We sincerely hope that the state of Mississippi lives up to the Secretary’s promise that these county offices will provide free photo IDs to all citizens who need them from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., five days a week.

“Earlier this month, the Secretary of State’s office acknowledged the ‘catch-22’ problem for voters who need to obtain a birth certificate. We are glad to hear that Mississippi appears to have found a solution to this problem.

“Whatever one’s position on new voter ID laws, we can all agree that in states where such laws exist, every effort should be made to ensure that eligible voters can get such IDs.”

Secretary of State Delbert Hoseman's Press Release, verbatim:

“The Brennan Center ‘Report’ is purposely inaccurate and is misleading in its statements about Mississippi.

Mississippi is cited as having 746, 316 voting age citizens more than ten (10) miles from the nearest ID-issuing office. The ‘Report’ counts only Public Safety offices open more than two (2) days per week. Yet the ‘Report’ acknowledges ‘Mississippi Law requires county offices to provide ID.’ There are ninety-two (92) of these offices located in all eighty-two (82) counties which are open five (5) days a week from 8:00 am – 5:00 pm. By purposely excluding these offices, the ‘Report’ exaggerates the population number, then multiplies it by the ‘estimated’ number of people without transportation, to provide a totally fraudulent number of 48,329 voting citizens without a vehicle more than ten (10) miles from a state ID issuing office. This statement is false and the Brennan Center had knowledge to the contrary when the ‘Report’ was issued.

Further, it claims the cost of a birth certificate, if one were necessary, is $15, and there is a Mississippi ‘Catch-22’ which is ‘particularly perverse.’ It states Mississippi requires a photo-ID to obtain a birth certificate. What they do not say is each Circuit Clerk will be able to access the National Association for Public Health Statistics to verify available birth certificate data across the country at no cost to the applicant by simply obtaining basic information from the applicant.

Our State takes seriously its obligations to qualified voters. We are working to identify all citizens who may not have an ID, to assist with transportation to a local courthouse, and to provide a completely free voter ID. Sixty-six (66) individuals have contacted our Office thus far indicating a need for a voter ID.

The author claims to be a ‘long-time organizer, lobbyist, and an experienced trial attorney’ but, obviously, is not a statistician.”

Comments

donnaladd 1 year, 8 months ago

So there was a catch-22 a few weeks back, but not now? And why not studies prior to wholeheartedly embracing this unnecessary voter ID plan, Mr. Hosemann? (We would ask him directly but he seems afraid to talk to us.)

Is it possible that Secretary of State Hosemann got behind expensive, unneeded legislation that he and others can't provide evidence that is needed -- and is now feeling the heat for hoisting such a mess on the state to pay for?

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robbier 1 year, 8 months ago

Maybe he'll talk to the Associated Press. Y'all seem to be pumping more AP stories than local ones anyways.

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donnaladd 1 year, 8 months ago

Nice try, Robbie. ;-) Our reporters do news—often breaking and enterprise—at least five days a week (not bad for a so-called "weekly," eh?) In fact, the story we're commenting under is the latest installment in an enterprise series that our reporters, and now a super intern, have been working on n since since year: the real story behind voter ID. Ronni chose to write the above story instead of use the AP version because we know a lot more about this story than other state media. We're the first media that called Brennan last night wanting a statement, and they called me back about 9 p.m. when I was shopping last night to tell me they had emailed us the statement. This is what real reporting looks like.

Not to mention, Hosemann's statement shows he isn't pleased with information his own PR flack woman confirmed to us weeks ago about the "catch 22." That angle came from our folks' enterprising reporting. Then Brennan apparently followed up on it.

As for the AP wire, we are thrilled to be able to now run their stories about other parts of the state, the nation and the world -- it's not like we can get our small-but-amazing reporting staff to the Coast or London every day.

And we responded to our readers by getting it. They tell us they are frustrated with the lack of world and national coverage here, and that they don't want to pay to see such stories on The Clarion-Ledger website -- they erect a paywall on Aug. 1. So we are giving readers what they want while not taking away a thing from our own stellar reporting efforts. In fact, it can help our folks stay on stories like the odd Ward 3 vote count that Jacob broke yesterday, if they aren't having to run to a Romney fundraiser in Jackson to report because AP is there.

We are using AP in a very strategic, studied fashion to give our readers what they want and need. And we couldn't be happier about it. It's the latest step in our growth and evolution into a daily news source for the state. Watch for other new features as well.

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donnaladd 1 year, 8 months ago

I should also add that we are only using AP online. We have more than enough copy for our issue each week. Our folks are passionate and prolific! And that's where we put the more deeply reported stories as a rule.

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brjohn9 1 year, 8 months ago

Why would anyone take the Secretary of State's word on how voters can obtain photo I.D., given the total lack of leadership this administration has shown in implementing the new requirements? The administration appears to be making things up as it goes along. In any case, the inconsistency, disorganization, and lack of funding show that the state is not prepared to implement this law in a way that will protect the rights of citizens, who have an inalienable right to vote. This whole thing is a sickening assault on the Constitution, and I would be shocked if the DOJ let this circus continue.

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goldeneagle97 1 year, 8 months ago

I don't take his word. Of course (but sadly), MS isn't the only state trying to suppress voter rights. Look at how many other states are trying to put up obstacles for people to vote.

If I can try and put a positive spin on this, I hope people will realize how precious our right to vote is and exercise it. I'm quite embarrassed at how low our voter participation in this country is. People all over the world die or are imprisoned for a right we take for granted. Use it or you will truly lose it.

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