Mississippi voter ID distribution off to slow start

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann (AP Photo)
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann (AP Photo)
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann (AP Photo)

VICKSBURG, Mississippi (AP) — About 100 Mississippi Voter ID cards — equal to about three-one thousandths of the state’s population — have been distributed statewide since the start of a campaign to ensure voters are ready for mandatory photo IDs at the polls this year.

The Vicksburg Post reports circuit clerks’ offices are assisting people who say they don’t have photo identification that poll workers will ask to see beginning June 3, when party primaries are held for federal elections.

Shirley Hall, a former Ridgeland mayor and a voter ID coordinator for Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, told the Vicksburg Lions Club last week that about 360,000 people in the state might need the cards, based on the number of Mississippi residents not registered to vote.

The state’s voter rolls are at 1.87 million, while the total voting-age population is about 2.2 million.

The general election for federal, judicial and local school board races is Nov. 4.

The small number of cards issued is attributed to the myriad avenues already in place to comply with the law. The state’s voters OK’d an initiative in 2011 to amend state law to make showing photo ID compulsory at the polls.

“Whether they choose to get one or not, I don’t know,” Hall said, adding the get-out-the-word campaign on voter ID before civic clubs and churches will take her down “every country road in Mississippi.”

Poll workers who allow people to vote without proper ID will face fines and penalties, the specifics of which are still being hashed out between Hosemann and the Attorney General’s Office, she said.

“It’s not going to be ‘Yeah, we know who you are’ at the polls,” Hall said. “We’ll have spotters. We’ll be very aggressive about this.”

The Mississippi Voter Identification Card is available free at circuit clerks’ offices statewide.

Those without ID may cast an affidavit ballot which will be counted if the voter returns to the appropriate clerk’s office within five business days after the election and shows government-issued ID. Voters with a religious objection to being photographed may also vote affidavit, after which the voter returns to the clerk’s office and signs another affidavit that the religious exemption applies to them.

Showing a photo ID is also mandatory starting this year for absentee voting in clerks’ offices statewide. Mississippi’s law, unlike several other states, accepts expired photo IDs at the polls as long as it’s not more than 10 years old.

Hosemann’s office sayid 10 types of photo IDs, not previously mandated at the polls, also are eligible. Those include a driver’s license, a state-issued ID card, a U.S. passport, a government employee ID card, a firearms license, a student ID issued by an accredited state university or community college, a U.S. military ID, a tribal photo ID, a federally-issued ID and the Mississippi Voter Identification Card.

Hall said Hosemann’s office will arrange transportation for anyone needing to obtain a voter ID card in the absence of all other forms. The voter ID hotline is 1-855-868-3745 or 1-844-678-6837. The state’s voter ID website is www.msvoterid.ms.gov