Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant on Thursday signed a bill requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls, but it’s unclear whether it will become law. Because of Mississippi’s history of racial discrimination, the state is required to get federal approval for any change in election laws or procedures. The U.S. Justice Department in recent months has rejected voter ID laws from Texas and South Carolina. The state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is asking the department to reject Mississippi’s proposed law, saying it could disproportionately create hardships for poor, elderly or minority voters who might be less likely to have a photo ID.
Legislative debates about voter ID have been sharply divided along racial lines for years. No black officials attended the bill signing ceremony in the governor’s Capitol office. Bryant was surrounded by several fellow Republicans and some tea party members.
“The legislation makes it easy to obtain a photo ID and put it in the hands of all voters,” Bryant said. “Our hope is to increase participation in the voting process. There is no one within this building that I have ever encountered that says, ‘I hope we can reduce the number of voters that are going to the polls.’ Just quite the opposite. We try and believe that it is our job to encourage this process but also bring about integrity.”