Implementation of Mississippi’s new voting requirements will begin with months to spare before its next election, according to a state official.
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann told the Associated Press that Mississippi will soon start issuing free voter identification cards to eligible residents who lack a government-issued photo ID. Issuance of the cards is expected to begin in early 2014, months before the U.S. House and Senate primaries in June. Mississippi was among the handful of states that were able to proceed with new voting requirements without federal approval, following a summer Supreme Court ruling that invalidated part of the Voting Rights Act.
A total 34 states have passed some form of voter ID law — controversial requirements that vary from state to state — according to the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures. Some require photo IDs, some do not; some require IDs to vote while others provide alternatives. Opponents of the laws say they disproportionately affect women and erect what some say are too-high hurdles to vote, disenfranchising vulnerable groups like minorities and the poor. Proponents say they’re necessary to prevent fraud. Studies have found little evidence of the kind of fraud that has prompted voter ID laws, but a year-old Pew study found broad support for such requirements.
Eleven states have passed “strict” photo ID laws — meaning voting is only possible when a photo ID is presented — while six of them, including Mississippi, have yet to implement the rules. Like Mississippi, Arkansas and Virginia are expected to implement their photo ID requirements in 2014. North Carolina’s is slated for 2016, while laws passed in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania are working their way through courts. Strict photo ID requirements are in place in Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Tennessee and Texas.
In Mississippi, acceptable forms of ID include a driver’s license, passport, gun permit or college ID. That state’s requirements were approved by voters in 2011 and put into law by state lawmakers the next year. Free rides will be available to those who need to get voter IDs, Hosemann told the AP. His office estimates fewer than 2 percent of Mississippian voters will need to get one.