State officials are running into problems with the new voter-identification law even before the federal government has approved or rejected it. Voters without a photo ID are facing a circular problem: They need a certified birth certificate to get the voter ID, and they need a photo ID to get the birth certificate.
Pamela Weaver, spokeswoman of the Mississippi Secretary of State's office, today confirmed the catch-22 problem, which the Jackson Free Press learned about from a complaint posted on Facebook. One of the requirements to get the free voter ID cards is a birth certificate, but in order to receive a certified copy of your birth certificate in Mississippi, you must have a photo ID. Not having the photo ID is why most people need the voter ID in the first place.
The acceptable forms of identification to receive a birth certificate are the same as the acceptible voter ID forms, with the additions of an alien registration certificate, a permanent residence card and a temporary resident card.
In the November 2011 election, 62 percent of Mississippi voters approved the Voter ID bill that would require voters to show a photo ID at the polls. The Secretary of State's website lists several acceptable forms of ID including:
• A current valid Mississippi driver's license
• A United States Military ID
• A valid tribal photo ID
• A student photo ID issued by a Mississippi university, college, or community college
• A state-issued photo ID
• A current valid United States Passport
• A government-issued empoyee ID
• A state-issued firearms license
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann's office has received limited response from people who are in need of a voter ID. Hosemann sent out a press release stating that only 35 individuals have contacted them to receive a free Voter ID in the first two weeks of its outreach initiative.
"We have sent materials to 82 counties across the state encouraging people to contact us," Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said in the press release.
The U.S. Department of Justice or the federal court system must approve the voter ID bill before it can become law. Neither entity has approved the law, yet.
A June 20 letter from the Voting Section of the Department of Justice to Assistant Attorney General Margarette L. Meeks said that the secretary of state's office met with the DOJ to discuss plans for implementing the Voter ID bill on Dec. 7, 2011.
But the feds haven't received the plans that the state promised. "We note that none of the proposals that the secretary of state identified at that meeting are presented for our review at this time," wrote T. Christian Herren Jr., chief of the Voting Section, in the June 20 letter.
The letter also says that the state has yet to "provide a timeline for the development, implementation, and submission of the final versions of the required memoranda of understanding, rules regulations, instructions and other necessary related actions."
Attorney general spokeswoman Jan Schaefer answered a phone message from the Jackson Free Press in email today: "We have filed everything we can up to this point. The DOJ responded and said they will review when they have everything as outlined in the enabling legislation, which would be rules and regulations being developed by the Secretary of State."
The secretary of state's office declined to comment, and suggested that the Jackson Free Press contact the Department of Justice, which has not yet responded to messages.