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Two Mississippi Secretaries of State Clash Over Voter ID

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 09 Apr 2012 05:08pm | comments
former Secretary of State Dick Molpus

Mississippians are one step closer to having to show a photo ID before they vote. State Senators could vote as soon as today on the framework for voter ID. Last November, voters approved a constitutional amendment requiring photo ID, but state lawmakers are still working out the details.  MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that current and former Secretaries of State are lobbying the federal government both for and against the photo requirement.

Under the 1965 voting rights act, the US Justice Department will have to give the stamp of approval to any voter ID rules Mississippi lawmakers establish.

Former three-term secretary of State Dick Molpus has sent a letter to US Attorney General Eric Holder asking him to reject the state's photo ID amendment.

Molpus oversaw 13-million votes as Secretary of State and says he had zero complaints that would have been prevented by voter ID laws.

"There are a lot of people in Mississippi who are home bound. Elderly people, many African-Americans and many rural whites, who weren't born in hospitals. They don't have birth certificates. There are many people who don't drive, for whatever reason. They don't have photo ID. You are going to take those people out of our democracy and that is what makes us strong is that everyone gets to participate," Molpus said.

The Justice Department recently rejected photo ID requirements from South Carolina and Texas.

Current Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann has gone to Washington D.C. to meet with Justice Department officials to discuss Mississippi's voter ID proposal.

He says the state has learned why other states were rejected.

"One, of course, is the student ID issue in South Carolina which we will actively confront here by allowing student IDs. In Texas, they rejected the Texas bill saying it was geographically too difficult for people to get to where they could get an ID. In that case, Mississippi is already a head of the game where we are going to have them at every county courthouse and every highway department," Hosemann said.

Hosemann believes the voter ID measure is constitutional and the Justice Department will put its stamp of approval on it.

However, the Justice Department cannot examine the rules until they are passed by the legislature and signed into law by the Governor, so there is no timeframe on when the state will know if its voter ID rules stand.

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former Secretary of State Dick Molpus


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