• 54°

Hosemann touts need for voter ID in state

WESSON – Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann extolled on thefiner points of the state’s pending voter ID bill at theMississippi American Legion Boys State program at Copiah-LincolnCommunity College Tuesday.

Hosemann attempted to bypass politics and show the incoming highschool seniors why a voter ID bill – a hot topic in the 2008regular and special sessions of the Legislature – is necessary forthe state to end false voter rolls and vote selling.

Hosemann said 24 of the state’s 82 counties have more registeredvoters than residents. Long, inaccurate voter rolls such as these,he said, are the main reason why 85 percent of Mississippiansbelieve that some form of voter fraud took place during recentelections.

“It makes good, common sense that people should identifythemselves when they go to the polls, like everywhere else,”Hosemann said. “It’s a worn and tired argument to say that voter IDhas been brought before the Legislature before and should bepostponed. We should focus on it once and for all.”

Hosemann said the passage of a voter ID bill would notimmediately terminate all forms of voter fraud in the state, butwould be the first of many steps to ensure fair and accurateelections. The main thing such a bill would accomplish presently,he said, is lowering the percentage of voters who have noconfidence in the system.

“Just the perception of whether or not we have dead peoplevoting in this state – people are starting to believe it,” hewarned. “Voter ID wouldn’t clear all of the problems, but it wouldclear the air to the integrity of the vote. Right now, people can’tunderstand why we don’t have voter ID.”

Hosemann said the passage of a voter ID law in Indiana – whichwas recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court – actually increasedvoter participation by 2 percent, particularly in areas of poverty.Impoverished voters are those mainly affected by voter fraud, hesaid.

“Cut through all the debate and look at who is selling theirvotes,” Hosemann said. “Voter fraud is designed to keep poor peoplefrom going through the electoral process and changing theirleaders. The people who are the most vulnerable are selling theirvotes – being used to keep the status quo instead of making achange.”

As for the stigma of the state’s racial history – a primeargument used by many to attack voter ID – Hosemann said suchissues no longer exist in Mississippi.

“It’s not about those old memories,” he said. “Those days areover, and you don’t have to walk any farther than into the middleof the House of Representatives to see that diversity. Voter ID isa psychological leap for the state. With 85 percent of the peoplefavoring it, that’s obviously a good cross section.”

Hosemann pointed out that 97 percent of Mississippians have adriver’s license – or at least one of 13 other available forms ofphoto ID. For those that don’t, the state will provide them an IDat no charge, he said.

“There is no impetus to a voter ID requirement,” Hosemannsaid.

A voter ID bill is currently on the Legislature’s agenda for thespecial session, but Hosemann’s office is not waiting for it tobecome law before it begins to work on voter fraud.

Beginning this June, Hosemann said, officials will be dispatchedto each of the 24 counties with more registered voters than theirpopulation to begin purging the rolls. Hosemann said the statecould face “mischief” if the rolls are not purged before thepresidential elections.

Hosemann’s points were well-received by the students of BoysState.

Will Craft, a 16-year-old senior from Simpson County, said hebelieved a voter ID bill necessary to stop the counting of votescast, apparently, by the deceased; stop voters from voting twiceand end vote selling.

And the stigma of racism at the polling place was lost onhim.

“Being here at Boys State, I think racism is a thing of thepast,” Craft said. “There’s only one race – human. We need anauthorization process.”

Brookhaven High School senior LaKenya Kelly, 17, said voter IDwould a positive step for Mississippi, depending on how it iscarried out.

“If the state provides the ID and pays for it with tax money, Idon’t think it’s any different than a driver’s license,” he said.”But if you have to drive far and pay a lot to get your voter ID,then I don’t think that’s fair.

“Then it becomes a social issue,” Kelly continued. “It becomesan elitist movement if you don’t have the means to travel andpurchase. It depends on how the state handles it.”