Voter ID gets a place on ballot

Election will be November 2011

Hosemann

JACKSON

Petitioners gathered more than enough signatures to put a voter ID initiative on Mississippi’s November 2011 ballot that will include candidates for governor and other offices, the state’s top elections official said Monday.

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said his office had determined 131,678 signatures of registered voters were collected. That’s significantly more than the minimum 89,285 needed.

Republican organizers, led by Sen. Joey Fillingane of Petal, spent about a year collecting signatures and submitted them in February. The Secretary of State’s Office spent weeks double-checking the numbers.

Mississippians will be asked to decide whether the state constitution should be amended to require each voter to show a government-issued photo identification at the polls.

Supporters say voter ID would help deter fraud; opponents say it could decrease turnout among older black voters who were once subject to Jim Crow laws.

Hosemann, a Republican, said he believes ID would help protect the integrity of elections.

“It would not be correct to say that voter ID is the answer to each and every one of our voting problems,” Hosemann said. “We have absentee ballot–fraud issues. We have affidavit ballot–fraud issues.”

Sen. David Jordan, D-Greenwood, is among the Legislative Black Caucus members who have fought voter ID bills over the past dozen years. “I still think it is a barrier that is going to hurt poor people who struggled to get the right to vote,” Jordan said Monday.

Petitioners had to gather at least 17,857 signatures from each of the five congressional districts Mississippi had in 2000. Hosemann said:

n 23,527 signatures came from the former 1st District, in northern Mississippi.

n 27,081 came from the former 2nd District in the Delta and parts of Jackson.

n 26,582 came from the former 3rd District in the east central part of the state.

n 25,733 came from the former 4th District, which stretched from southwestern Mississippi into the metro Jackson area.

n 28,755 came from the former 5th District in the south.

Legislators will get a chance to weigh in on the ballot question if they choose. State law says legislators cannot stop an initiative from going to the voters, but legislators can put an alternative proposal for the same subject on the same ballot.

For example, they could list types of ID that would be acceptable.

Sen. Billy Hewes III, R-Gulport, said he doubts both chambers of the Legislature would agree on an alternative proposal. He said the number of signatures gathered on the initiative shows strong public demand to decide the issue.

Hosemann said Monday his office is still checking the signatures submitted in February for a separate initiative that would declare life begins at conception. Organizers want to have it on the November 2011 ballot.

Mississippians have decided only two other voter-led initiatives. Each was a proposal to set legislative term limits, and each was rejected.

By EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS – The Associated Press

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