After years of unsuccessfully trying to get the Mississippi Legislature to pass a voter ID law, last November, state conservatives put the issue of voter ID to the state’s voters. In the same election where voters said “no” to a controversial initiative to make a fetus a person, voters said “yes” to forcing voters to present a government-issued identification card to cast a ballot. The initiative passed with 62 percent of the vote. Of course, that wasn’t the end of the issue for Mississippi. First, the state Legislature had to pass a law, which it did. Before implementing any laws that change voting procedures, Mississippi has to get a ruling on the law from the U.S. Department of Justice. That isn’t a frivolous request; the state has a history of black voter suppression going back to Reconstruction and the Jim Crow era. Essentially, because it wouldn’t give a fair and level playing field to African Americans then, the federal government is watching us to make sure we do now. By June 20, however, the Justice Department had not received all the pertinent information it needed to make its ruling. Among the items missing were Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann’s specific procedures to implement voter ID across the state.
A related problem, but not at issue with the DOJ, is the cost of implementing the measure. The state Legislature had failed to fund the law, which the Mississippi Legislative Budget Office estimated could cost the state up to $1.5 million in lost revenue. Sen. Joey Fillingane, R-Sumrall, the law’s sponsor, disputed that figure, saying it would cost about $100,000 to give everyone who needed it a free voter ID card.
“Of course, that wouldn’t happen,” Fillingane said, meaning that not everyone who needs a card will actually go to get one. Regardless of how much or how little it costs, opponents of the law doubt if it’s money well-spent, or even necessary, to “fix” a voter-fraud problem that conservatives have little evidence even exists.