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.
As new Members take the oath of office in January 2013, something unprecedented may occur: Not a single white Democrat from the Deep South could be a Member of the 113th Congress. Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina already have just a single Democratic Representative in Congress. Each of those Democrats is African-American and represents majority-black districts.
It’s a trend that may extend to a fifth state in the Deep South. Georgia’s Republican-written Congressional redistricting map, which became law earlier this year and was approved by the Department of Justice just before Christmas, undermines the current Democratic bent of Rep. John Barrow’s district. He’s the Peach State’s one white Democratic Member. The new map is likely to leave Georgia’s delegation with only four Democrats — representing the state’s four majority-black districts.
Voters in several states head to the polls on November 8 to elect a variety of offices and decide on a number of ballot initiatives. While off-year elections don’t typically draw the same attention as their even-year counterparts, this election season will provide several election administration storylines worth watching.Voters in Mississippi will decide next week whether or not they want to show photo ID on future election days.
Initiative 27, sponsored by Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and State Sen. Joey Fillingane is appearing on the November ballot after the state senate failed to take up the matter in its last session. If approved by the voters, the state’s Constitution would be amended to require voters to show a government issued photo ID in order to cast a ballot.
Voter identification — considered a safeguard against fraud by some and an effort to disenfranchise voters by others — was a hot topic in state legislatures this year. Twenty states that didn’t have requirements requiring voter ID at the polls at the beginning of 2011 considered legislation this year. Two states — Kansas and Wisconsin — so far have enacted new voter ID requirements, statistics posted on the National Conference for State Legislatures indicate.
Governors in Minnesota, New Hampshire and North Carolina vetoed voter ID bills in 2011, but backers in Minnesota vowed to pass a similar ID bill next year that would skip the gubernatorial step and take the matter to the voters instead, similar to what the Oklahoma Legislature did in 2009 and 2010. Mississippi voters will weigh in on a citizen initiative proposing voter ID in November. Of the 30 states with voter ID laws, 14 require a picture ID of the voter.
Voting Blogs: Did You Forget Something? Mississippi’s Missing Ballot Language Prompts Scramble | Doug Chapin/PEEA
On November 8, Mississippi voters will head to the polls for a statewide general election. The ballot includes three statewide questions, including one on voter ID. Absentee voting has already started in the state’s 82 counties and election officials have begun to prepare voting machines for Election Day.
Now, however, the election community is scrambling to correct an omission on the ballot: language detailing the fiscal impact of voter ID and two other initiatives. Last Friday, the state Attorney General notified the Secretary of State’s office that the ballots published to the counties in mid-September lacked the following required language for the voter ID initiative:
Based on Fiscal Year 2010 information, the Department of Public Safety issued 107,094 photo IDs to offset a portion of $17.92 cost per ID. The cost is estimated to remain the same, but the assessment will no longer be allowable under the provision of Initiative 27 (voter ID). Therefore, the Department of Public Safety is estimated to see a loss of revenue of approximately $1,499,000.
National: New census data trigger federal requirements for bilingual voting ballots in 25 states | The Washington Post
In the run-up to the 2012 elections, the federal government is ordering that 248 counties and other political jurisdictions provide bilingual ballots to Hispanics and other minorities who speak little or no English. That number is down from a decade ago following the 2000 census, which covered 296 counties in 30 states. In all, more than 1 in 18 jurisdictions must now provide foreign-language assistance in pre-election publicity, voter registration, early voting and absentee applications as well as Election Day balloting.
The latest requirements, mandated under the Voting Rights Act, partly reflect second and third generations of racial and ethnic minorities who are now reporting higher levels of proficiency in English than their parents. Still, analysts cite a greater potential for resistance from localities that face tighter budgets, new laws requiring voter IDs at polls and increased anti-immigration sentiment.
Effective this week, Hispanics who don’t speak English proficiently will be entitled to Spanish-language election material in urban areas of political battleground states including Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin and Utah, as well as the entire states of California, Florida and Texas. For the first time, people from India will get election material in their native language, in voting precincts in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, due to their fast population growth.
When a reporter asked us why Louisiana, Missisissippi, New Jersey and Virginia have state elections in odd-numbered years, Tim Storey and I replied that it was probably the same reason that states have moved their gubernatorial elections into non-presidential election years: to insulate them from national political trends. After doing some research, though, it turns out that the reasons are sometimes more prosaic and quirky.
In some cases, the odd-year elections have to do with when new constitutions were adopted. Until the mid-19th century, the Virginia General Assembly, not the voters, elected the governor. A new constitution was adopted in 1851, and the first governor was directly elected in December 1851. They have been holding state elections in the odd-numbered years ever since. (See “Virginia’s Off-Off-Year Elections.”)
Once again, Mississippi voters, frustrated by not being able to cross party lines to cast ballots for their favorite candidates, are excited about installing an “open primary” election system that neighboring Louisiana has had since 1975.
Not that the Legislature hasn’t tried to scrap the state’s traditional closed primary system. In fact, four times since 1966, lawmakers have passed legislation to put candidates for all parties (and independents) on the same primary ballot without party designation and require a runoff between the two highest finishers.
For various reasons, none of the bills have become law. Mostly it’s been the Justice Department disapproved Mississippi’s proposed changes under Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Blacks objected it would block them running as independents in general elections after being historically shut out of the closed Democratic primaries.
Voting Blogs: ‘There is No Way for Them to be Tampered With’: Mississippi Election Clerk Gets Approval to Remove Paper Trail Printers from Diebold Touch-Screens | The Brad Blog
The Jones County, Mississippi slogan is “A Great Place to Live”. While they may or may not be true, I’ve never been there, it’s clearly not a great place to vote. At least if voting in a way that is verifiably accurate for the citizenry is something one might care about. A remarkable statement by the county’s Circuit Clerk, and a unanimous decision in support of it by the County’s Board of Supervisors this week has made that as clear as can be.
You may recall that just last week, e-voting system failures — such as, as e-voting machines that wouldn’t start up at all, and votes that were counted twice — led to chaos and uncertain results in Mississippi’s state primaries, leading one official to declare days afterward, as they were all struggling to sort out results of several close elections: “At this point there is no election…Everyone is baffled.”
Against that back drop then, behold what Jones County, MS Circuit Clerk Bart Gavinis now calling for — and receiving unanimous approval from the Jones County Board of Supervisors for(!) — as irresponsibly reported without even a hint of fact-checking by Laurel Leader-Call reporter Charlotte Graham under the laughably misleading headline “Improving the voting process” [emphasis added].