Mississippi voters this week passed the voter ID ballot initiative by a wide margin, making that state the eighth in the nation to adopt a strict voter photo ID requirement, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Lawmakers in Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin enacted similar laws earlier this year.
The Mississippi amendment requires residents to present a government-issued photo ID before they can vote, and says those who lack proper identification can obtain one from the state for free.
Republican state Senator Joey Fillingane sponsored the ballot initiative after legislators debated the issue for years without winning approval in both chambers. He said the photo ID requirement would help clean up the state’s election process. “This certainly won’t cure all of our issues in the state of Mississippi, but I think it’s a very important first step,” Fillingane said.
Opponents of the measure liken it to a modern-day form of the poll taxes that were once used to keep African-Americans from voting in Southern states. They say low-income, minority and elderly voters will be disproportionately affected. Many people in those groups cannot afford to pay for the required documents needed to get a government-issued photo ID, the opponents say.