Mississippi voters could have to start showing photo identification at the polls by the June 2014 federal primaries, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said Tuesday after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled certain state and local governments no longer need federal approval to change their own election laws or procedures. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 has required Mississippi and other areas with a history of racial discrimination, mainly in the South, to get clearance for changes as large as implementing a voter ID law to as small as relocating a precinct. Justices said the Voting Rights Act does not reflect racial progress made in the United States over the past 48 years, even after it was last renewed in 2006. They said the preclearance portion of the law can’t be enforced unless Congress comes up with a new formula to determine which state or local governments should be covered, based on what Chief Justice John Roberts called “current conditions” in the United States.
Many Republican officials in Mississippi, including Hosemann, applauded the ruling and said people in the state have embraced nondiscriminatory voting procedures.
“We’re not the same old Mississippi that our fathers’ fathers were,” said Hosemann, the state’s top elections official, said during a news conference at the state Capitol.
However, Democratic U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, the only black member of Mississippi’s congressional delegation, said the ruling “guts the most critical portion of the most important civil rights legislation of our time.”