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ID measure awaits decision by voters

Aside from victories by unopposedcandidates, many political observers are predicting the surestthing on the Nov. 8 ballot is passage of a constitutional amendmentto make people show identification when voting.

    The ballot initiative, No. 27, will be put to voters next throughthe question,  “Should theMississippi Constitution be amended to require a person to submitgovernment issued photo identification in order to vote?”

    For years, supporters have contended the answer should be yes, butrepeated efforts to pass voter ID in the Mississippi Legislaturehave failed. Democrats have been most resistant to the attempts,but a handful of Republican senators derailed a compromise effort afew years ago.

    Following lawmakers’ inaction, a citizen initiative effort wassuccessful in getting the issue to this year’s ballot. According toa ballot summary on the Secretary of State’s website, InitiativeNo. 27 “would amend the Mississippi Constitution to require votersto submit a government issued photo identification before beingallowed to vote; provides that any voter lacking government issuedphoto identification may obtain photo identification without chargefrom the Mississippi Department of Public Safety; and exemptscertain residents of state-licensed care facilities and religiousobjectors from being required to show photo identification in orderto vote.”

    In July, an unscientific DAILY LEADER website poll questionindicated more than 100-1 support for the measure. The results were223 yes and 22 no.

    Posted comments regarding the initiative on the Secretary ofState’s website suggested the vote on the issue could be a littlecloser. Of 24 comments visible Thursday, 14 were for the measureand 10 were against.

    “By all means it should be required to present voter identificationfor voting!! I can’t believe we don’t do this already!” wrote onewoman from Florence.

    However, opponents likened voter ID to a “modern day poll tax.”

    “Voting is a guaranteed right to every citizen. Road blocks inplace to prevent a lawful citizen from voting without getting priorconsent from the state in the form of an ID card is, at its core,wrong,” wrote a Jackson resident.

    A subsequent comment from a supporter pointed out ID cards can beobtained at no cost for those needing them to vote.

    Other comments echoed some political columnists’ observations thatvoter ID will not bring about better and problem-freeelections.

    “This is a solution in search of a problem,” wrote a Saltilloresident.

    Few supporters, if any, are claiming that voter ID will solve allvoting-related problems in the state.

    Indeed, to do so will take a comprehensive reform effort thatexplores absentee balloting, the possibility of early voting,proper and efficient voter roll maintenance, fraud prosecution andother issues. In addition to legislative actions, citizens electingpeople dedicated to the goal of clean and proper elections is animportant piece of the puzzle.

    Although voter ID is not a panacea for election ills, it surely isa step in the right direction. And it is a journey Mississippivoters should be ready to take.