Mississippi voters will wade through many other offices and questions in the Nov. 8 general election before they reach constitutional initiative No. 27, which asks them whether the state should require voters to show a government-issued photo to prove their identity. A bit of irony comes into play here: some voters who say yes to the question will not be allowed to vote in the next election unless they have a photo ID.
Supporters of the voter ID question, which was hotly debated in the House and Senate last spring, say it will cut down on voter fraud in Mississippi. Opponents say the requirement will keep some people from the polls, especially elderly black men and women who recall the voting rights struggles of the 1960s.
… A voter photo ID requirement would amount to a return to a poll tax in Mississippi, Sen. David Jordan, D-Greenwood, said during debate on the matter in 2009.
“What this is is a barrier that’s been forced on people to keep them from voting. It’s just a hemlock that you’re bringing to the floor of the Senate,” said Jordan, who is black.
Marty Wiseman, director of the John C. Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University, predicted voters will approve the photo ID initiative. “Most of the folks 45 to 50 and younger don’t understand the objection to voter ID,” Wiseman said. Before 1962, Wiseman said voters had to pay the tax and then show proof when they went to the polls to vote, which kept poor black voters from voting.
“Older African Americans remember those days, and some folks in the Legislature can remember it,” he said. “The ones now with gray hair on their heads certainly remember it well.”