Mississippi has just joined Alabama and numerous other states in adopting tougher voter ID laws, a trend that promises to fuel an intense battle over how such laws may affect voter turnout in the 2012 elections and beyond. “It’s boiling over,” said Jennie Bowser, a senior election policy analyst at the National Conference of State Legislatures. “People on both sides of the aisle are very protective of elections. They regard it as the cornerstone of American democracy.”
Nearly 200 mostly Democratic lawmakers, including Rep. Terri Sewell of Birmingham, recently wrote state election officials urging them not to let the new laws jeopardize voters’ rights. Democrats and civil rights groups warn that millions of voters, mostly minorities, may be turned away at the polls next year if they don’t have the required ID.
“The voter ID laws being passed in Alabama and other states restrict voter participation at a time when we should be promoting voter participation by making it easier to vote,” Sewell said. “Nothing is more fundamental to our democracy than the right to vote.”
Supporters of the laws, mostly Republicans, said they help prevent fraud. “We need to do everything we possibly can to make sure that our voting process is what it should be,” said Alabama Rep. Kerry Rich, R-Albertville, a sponsor of the voter ID law the state enacted this year. “(Opponents) will use the argument that this puts a strain on people being able to go in and vote. I think that’s totally foolish.”