Voter ID part of ’65 Voting Rights Act

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, March 18, 2003

In the midst of all the debate and discussion that’s going aboutrequiring Mississippians to show some form of identification beforevoting, it’s been brought to our attention that there’s already alaw on the books, part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

§ 23-15-541 from the 1996 Mississippi CodeAnnotated, page 356 from the Mississippi Election Laws publication,states:

… When any person entitled to vote shall appear to vote, themanagers shall identify the voter, in the presence and view of thebystanders, by requiring the voter to submit a Mississippi publicdriver’s license, identification card issued by the Department ofPublic Safety, voter registration card, Medicaid or Medicare card,health insurance card, tax receipt or other identification card orby comparison with the descriptive information on the pollbook orhave a person from the precinct vouch for such person’sidentification …

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Basically — we think — that says if the pollworkers don’t knowwho you are, they should ask for identification. Sounds simple tous. Of course, nothing is simple if the Mississippi legislature andthe federal government are involved.

We thank the citizen who pointed the old law out to us. Thepoint he was trying to make — that showing an ID before votingshould not be anything new to Mississippi voters — is a goodone.

For now, Mississippi has yet to come into compliance with a newfederal law that also requires voters to show identification beforecasting ballots. The Help America Vote Act of 2002, which wasdesigned to head off problems like those experienced in the 2000presidential race, appears dead for this session. Dead, too, is thechance for the state to get $34 million in federal funds to upgradevoting machines and other election equipment.

That’s a shame.