Set aside for a moment your actual opinion of whether Mississippi’s new voter ID laws are a necessary safeguard against voter fraud and consider only the fact that 2012 is year in which an incumbent Democrat is seeking re-election to the White House. Consider, too, that Democratic President Barack Obama appointed U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to lead the U.S. Justice Department, which continues to hold tremendous sway over election law in Mississippi through our state’s undeniable status as a “covered jurisdiction” under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. “Covered jurisdiction” states, counties and municipalities cannot implement voting law changes without federal “preclearance” by the Justice Department.
States included in the “covered jurisdiction” by the Voting Rights Act include: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia. There are also counties in California, Florida, New York, North Carolina, and South Dakota as well as some cities in Michigan and New Hampshire that are included.
The Voting Right Act provided extensive federal oversight of elections administration in states with “a history of discriminatory voting practices.” Despite the passage of 46 years, the highest percentage of black voters in the country, and the largest number of black elected officials of any state in the union, Mississippi election law changes are still subject to federal preclearance.