The Mississippi Senate on Tuesday approved $695,000 for the secretary of state to defend a proposed voter identification law, and the budget bill moves on to the House for more work. The secretary of state’s overall $13 million budget for fiscal 2014 was rejected last week, but many senators were out of the chamber at the time. During a second vote Tuesday with better attendance, Senate Bill 2901 passed. Mississippi needs federal approval for any changes to election laws, to ensure that the changes don’t dilute minority voting strength. If the Justice Department rejects the voter ID proposal, as many expect, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann could ask federal judges to approve it.
Supporters of voter ID say it will help prevent people from voting under others’ names, while critics say it could disproportionately hurt poor or older residents. Part of Mississippi’s proposal is to provide a free ID to people who don’t have one already.
Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson, said the bill was a waste of money because the attorney general is handling voter ID submissions to the federal government. Republican Hosemann said most Mississippians support voter ID. Those voting against his budget were showing symbolic opposition, he said.