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Voter ID bill to go before Department of Justice

Quentin Winstine

On April 10, the Mississippi Senate passed House Bill 921 by a 34-14 vote. If approved by the U.S. Justice Department, it will require voters to provide a government-issued photo ID.  The bill is required to go before the U.S. Justice Department as a part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This act ruled that certain states with a history of racial discrimination must request the approval of the attorney general or a federal court to find that the proposed changes in election law will not discriminate against voters.  “This state has had a very difficult time in getting things pre-cleared through the Department of Justice.” If the voter ID rule is approved, it will require each voter to present a photo ID which must include, but will not be limited to: a current and valid Mississippi driver’s license, identification card, United States passport, license to carry, tribal ID and/or employee ID issued by the U.S. government or the state of Mississippi.  The current cost of a Mississippi driver’s license is $21, and $14 for a state ID. Both forms of ID are valid for four years. In Georgia, where the voter ID law was recently passed, a free photo ID card is provided to citizens who do not have a state ID, but require proof of residence. This would require many people to pay travel expenses, therefore potentially putting a strain on certain voters. New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and South Carolina also have new voter ID laws that are designed to eliminate voter fraud. The argument from Democrats is that voter fraud is not an issue and the laws are being created to reduce the voting of minority and low-income voters. In late August, a federal appeals court in Washington struck down the Texas voter ID law, agreeing that it was racially discriminatory.  A statement released by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said, “The court’s decision ... earlier this week on the Texas redistricting plans not only reaffirm — but help protect — the vital role the Voting Rights Act plays in our society to ensure that every American has the right to vote and to have that vote counted.” Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) is pleased that the recent bill passed. “I support voter ID requirements such as the one passed by 62 percent of Mississippi voters last November,” he said. “Voter ID is already used in many states and is one way to combat fraud, which is an increasing problem. I am strongly opposed to the federal Justice Department’s lawsuits that are attempting to prevent states like Florida from implementing such laws.” The voting polls for the general election will be open Nov. 6 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.