Plaintiffs in a lawsuit to limit
Mississippi primary election participation to party members want a
federal judge to reconsider his order mandating a voter photo
In addition, in court documents filed Friday in federal court in
Greenville, the plaintiffs want U.S. District Judge W. Allen Pepper
to apply his party registration requirement to this year's Aug. 7
Pepper said his June 8 decision would not effect August party
primaries. However, Pepper said no party primates could be held in
2008 without both party registration and voter ID in place. His
order did not apply to general elections.
Statewide offices such as governor and lieutenant governor,
legislative seats and local offices such as supervisor are up for
election this year. The 2008 elections are for federal offices.
In his order, Pepper said political parties have a right to stop
non-party members from voting in their primary elections. He said
party registration and voter ID would do that.
Pepper ruled in a lawsuit filed in 2006 by plaintiffs wanting to
stop non-Democrats from voting in Democratic primary elections. The
Mississippi Republican Party was not involved in the lawsuit, but
Pepper said his decision applies to all party primaries in the
Plaintiffs did not ask for a voter ID system.
Plaintiffs attorney Ellis Turnage of Cleveland and Attorney
General Jim Hood could not be reached Saturday for comment. Hood
had said he would ask Pepper to clarify his ruling, but nothing had
been filed by the state by Friday.
Mississippi now has an open primary system, meaning voters don't
have to register by party and can vote in any primary they like.
The only restriction comes during the runoffs: A person who votes
in one party's primary may not then switch over and vote in the
other party's primary runoff.
The lawsuit was filed because some members of the Democratic
Party believe white Republican voters cast ballots in Democratic
primaries to manipulate the outcome of elections, Turnage has said.
Pepper said gave the Legislature had until April 1, 2008, to
pass laws implementing his order. He said the state should report
back to him by June 10, 2008, on whether the Justice Department
cleared the laws. The department oversees changes in Mississippi
election laws to ensure fairness to minorities.
In Friday's documents, Turnage said "mandating a voter photo
identification system to verify who participates in a primary
election constitutes judicial legislation in violation of the
separation of powers doctrine."
Regarding the 2007 primaries, Turnage said Pepper's decision
found Mississippi's primary system unconstitutional. By exempting
the 2007 primaries, Pepper deprived the plaintiffs of their right
to keep non-Democrats out of its party elections, Turnage said.
"For every constitutional violation which causes an injury,
there must be a remedy," Turnage wrote. "(The decision) legally
forecloses any post-election remedy and condones outcome
determinative party raiding in the primary and runoff elections."
While the federal courts do not readily postpone - or stop -
elections, they do allow plaintiffs to go back and show where
constitutional violations occurred, Turnage said.
By not applying his decision to the August primaries, Pepper was
denying the plaintiffs the right to challenge election results
should they be able to prove non-Democrats voted in the Democratic