U.S. State Department questions Mississippi over need for Voter ID

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Currently, 30 states have voter ID  laws in place, including 11 requiring photo IDs.

Sixty-two percent of Mississippi voters approved a voter ID law in a 2011 referendum, but State Senator Joey Fillingane says the wishes of that majority vote are being put on hold by the U.S. Justice Department.

"The intent of the voters of the state of Mississippi have clearly been thwarted now," said Fillingane.

"Their request for information were outrageously broad," said Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann.

Fillingane and Hosemann have strong feelings regarding a five-page letter sent to Mississippi's Attorney General's Office by the U.S. Justice Department. The letter asks for more information proving the state's voter ID law doesn't have a discriminatory purpose or effect.

"They asked first for what was our proof that we didn't have a discriminatory purpose, well, what we had was a constitutional vote, so discretionary purpose to me is out of bounds we shouldn't be discussing that anymore,"said Hosemann.

Hosemann and Fillingane feel the request is unnecessary, and the justice department is stalling the law.

"Attorney General Hood filed on January the fourth. It's 10 months later almost to the day," said Hosemann.

"Of course the law allows them time to ask for additional time and now that is what they have done, but that conveniently places any results well beyond the November sixth election," said Fillingane.

Fillingane says lawmakers made sure anyone who doesn't' have any form of picture ID can obtain the voter ID. First step, Fillingane says the voter ID cards are free. The costs to manufacture them and hand them out will be picked up by taxpayers - a total of approximately $1.5 million.

"We specifically put language in the law stating that the Mississippi tax payers would bare the burden of any cost associated with preparing and producing these voter ID cards, so it won't be any cost," said Fillingane.

Fillingane added the law goes a step farther by making the ID available at Highway Patrol stations and every court house. Hosemann's office is going a step further.

"If you can't even make it to the court house we will come and pick you up. We will give you a free ID. We will give you a free birth certificate if you don't have one. Now, realistically what is the barrier to an ID then," said Hosemann.

Fillingane says Mississippi needs the law to expel voter fraud. Hosemann feels this is a law that can't be set aside. Opponents say there is little evidence of fraud, especially at a level that would require a new identification system.

"We are going to have to decide not to let this application go into perpetuity, and the alternative is to go to court,"said Hosemann.

The Attorney General's Office has 60 days to submit the information requested by the U.S. Justice Department.

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