Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann is telling everyone he sees about two national awards the state won for its Voter ID campaign. Barring a lawsuit, the June 3 primaries in Mississippi will mark the first time the state has required voter identification in a statewide election, putting into practice a policy Mississippi voters approved by 62 percent of the vote back in 2012. Hosemann believes that the state has avoided a lawsuit on the implementation of voter ID because his office was proactive in working with the U.S. Justice Department guidance in devising a voter ID process that respected the Constitution and was as fair and accessible as possible. That’s a remarkably simply solution. Hosemann points out the obvious but important fact that voter ID has long been a contentious political issue in Mississippi. The issue dominated political debate in the state for more than 20 years with Republicans arguing for it as a tool to offset voter fraud and Democrats arguing against it as a form of voter intimidation in a state with a sorry voting rights history.
The Obama administration opposes voter ID laws in the South. Mississippi is one of nine states declared “covered jurisdictions” under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. “Covered jurisdiction” states, counties and municipalities cannot implement voting law changes without federal “pre-clearance” by the Justice Department.
States included in the “covered jurisdiction” by the Voting Rights Act are: 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.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has in the past talked tough about suing Southern states over voter ID laws even after the Supreme Court ruled that Section 5 must be a national approach rather than a narrowly drawn safeguard. The court invited Congress to draw a new formula.