Voter ID Is Here, Like It or Not | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Voter ID Is Here, Like It or Not

On June 4, for the first time in modern history, Mississippi voters will be required to show a government-issued photo-identification card before submitting a ballot. Registration for that election—the Republican and Democratic primaries—ended this past Saturday.

It was a long, hard-fought, but ultimately unsuccessful, battle for civil-liberties organizations, who say the laws burden poor and minority voters.

But whether they (or we) like it or not, voter ID is the law of the land in Mississippi although it should be noted that's only the case because the conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way with a 2013 ruling that invalidated key parts of the Voting Rights Act's Section 5.

It's nevertheless encouraging to see so many of the most ardent voter-ID opponents now leading the push to educate the public about the law, including which forms of ID are acceptable, at churches and community meetings throughout Mississippi.

As we saw with the 2012 election that gave President Barack Obama a second term in office, the presence of voter ID laws seemed to create a defiant surge in turnout in some places.

That doesn't mean that the fight should end. Even as states like Mississippi are moving forward with implementation with voter ID, a rigorous debate rightly continues about the constitutionality of such measures.

Late last month, a federal judge in Wisconsin invalidated that state's photo-ID law, arguing that it excluded poor and minority voters who have more limited access to IDs as well as the documents needed to obtain an ID.

"Virtually no voter impersonation occurs in Wisconsin, and it is exceedingly unlikely that voter impersonation will become a problem in Wisconsin in the foreseeable future," the judge wrote in a very thorough opinion.

The same could be said for Mississippi, which has a couple voter-fraud convictions in recent years, neither of which involved voter impersonation.

The Wisconsin judge found that state's voter ID violated the VRA's Section 2, which remains intact and prohibits outright discrimination based on factors such as race.

Accepting that the people least likely to have voter ID are poor and under-educated, the Wisconsin federal judge determined that poverty "is traceable to the effects of discrimination in areas such as education, employment and housing."

It is our hope that every voter who wishes to participate in the upcoming election has registered and will obtain the required photo ID. It is also our hope that should potential voting-rights violations arise, the courts move swiftly to remedy those problems. And, who knows, maybe we won't have to endure voter ID, clearly a frivolous and political law, in Mississippi for very long.

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