JACKSON 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.”