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Mississippi House Passes Voter ID Bill

By Daniel Cherry | Published 14 Mar 2012 09:43pm | comments

Mississippians are one step closer to showing identification in future elections. MPB’s Daniel Cherry reports how the House of Representatives passed legislation to implement Voter ID.

A bill requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls passed the House by a nearly two to one margin. Due to Mississippi's history of voter discrimination, all changes to voting procedures must be approved by the U.S. Justice Department. Bill Denny authored the bill and is the Chairman of the House Elections Committee. He believes Mississippi's law will pass the test.

"It's tracking both Indiana and Georgia law that had been approved by the Federal Courts, plus the fact it's even more compatible than those two laws were. We have more opportunity for photo IDs."

Denny says the bill clarifies which ID's will be acceptable, like a driver's license, a passport or Medicaid card. The legislation furthers an amendment approved by 62 percent of voters in November. But opponents like Bill Chandler, Executive Director of the Mississippi Immigrants' Rights Alliance say the bill is a solution in search of a problem.

"The reality is, there has not been any significant number of people that had been accused of voter fraud, but I think this is an issue more designed to suppress the vote and keep people of color and elderly people from voting."

Mississippi's Voter ID would allow funding to provide photo identification to residents unable to afford one. Democrat Steve Holland, surprised many by voting in favor of the bill.

"I thought it was time that we put Voter ID behind us plain and simple so I supported the chairman in his attempt to run this bill through the process. I think it's going to be ok. I think it's going to disenfranchise some people and that's always tragic and sad to me, but by in large I can't even buy a roll of toilet paper at Wal-Mart without an ID so what the heck?"

The Justice Department has already ruled against Voter ID laws in South Carolina and Texas saying the laws there would have harmed minority voters.

The bill now goes to the Mississippi Senate for consideration.

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