Oct 18 / Erin Ferns Lee

Mississippi Polarizes Voters on November Ballot

On November 8, Mississippians will vote on an issue that comes with a deeply politicized history, forcing some opponents to question the motives behind the measure, according to reporter Jessica Bakeman at the Clarion Ledger.

For more than 15 years, Mississippi Republicans tried to push a restrictive photo voter ID law through the state Legislature. The politically polarizing issue reached a “compromise” in 2009 when state Democrats approved a voter ID measure if it included an early voting provision. But in a puzzling move, state Republicans killed the long-fought measure, including Lt. Governor Phil Bryant, who is also the Republican gubernatorial candidate.

State Democrats say that the initiative is “most definitely politically charged,” especially since state Republicans rejected the 2009 bill, Bakeman writes. Bryant allegedly opposed the proposal to allow early voting 15 days before the election because he feared it would be vulnerable to voter fraud. However, Democrats say it would actually have reduced absentee voting fraud (the most common type of voter fraud) and early voters would have been required to prove identity.

Even Sen. Fillingane admits that the voter ID measure “will not cure every perceived or real problem with the Mississippi election system,” but claims “it’s a step in the right direction.”

Which “direction” the initiative would take is questionable to opponents since it has earned the name “21st-century poll tax” because of the costs it imposes on the voter: while ID would be free, birth certificate to obtain ID is not at $15 a pop.

“It’s a strategy designed to suppress the vote during an election when people vote the most: a gubernatorial election, or the upcoming presidential election,” said Michelle Colon, lead organizer of activist group, “Hell No! on Mississippi 26 and 27.”

Bakeman adds, “yet another objection to the voter ID initiative is its necessity altogether. Opponents point to evidence that the most common type of voter fraud is absentee balloting, which would not be prevented by requiring voters to show ID.

“For that reason, [Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Johnny] DuPree calls this legislation ‘a solution in search of a problem.'”

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