No Compromise on Voter ID

A voter ID bill died in Mississippi yesterday, not because there’s no real threat of voter fraud, but because the bill wasn’t restrictive enough....

March 6, 2009

handA voter ID bill died in Mississippi yesterday, not because legislators came to their senses and realized there’s no threat of voter fraud, but because the bill wasn’t restrictive enough.

In a rare turn of events, the voter ID bill was actually killed in committee by three of its most vocal supporters, Republican senators Joey Fillingane, Merle Flowers and Billy Hewes.

The reason? After hours of compromise on both sides of the aisle, they opposed other provisions in the bill that would make voting in Mississippi more inclusive, like early voting and restoring voting rights to people who have committed non-violent felonies.

The bill also contained an age exemption for senior citizens (who often have trouble getting current photo ID after their drivers’ licenses expire), extended the voter registration period, and mandated basic adherence to the federal “Moter Voter” law that allows people to register at DMVs.

Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant also stood against the bill. “I am not willing,” he said, “to back down from my Republican conservative principles and accept early voting and other provisions that compromise fair elections.” Exactly how early voting is supposed to compromise elections remains unclear, especially after its success in the 2008 election, helping to reduce lines and bureaucratic problems on Election Day.

The refusal to compromise on the bill, according to Mississippi NAACP President Derrick Johnson,“is proof that Republicans are less concerned about voter ID and more concerned with having a political issue they can use for elections.” Voter ID is important, but apparently not important enough to accept other measures that would bring Mississippi in line with more modern voting procedures that broaden the opportunities for participation.

While some editorial pages lament that the law is a “good opportunity that’s been wasted,” it actually represents a good opportunity to see how the politics of voter ID really work.