Democrats in Congress unveiled the Voter Empowerment Act of 2012, legislation aimed at strengthening election procedures for voters. On the same day, Mississippi Republican Gov. Phil Bryant signed into lawa bill mandating voters show photo ID before hitting the polls, a law that was passed by ballot referendum by 62 percent of voters.
While Mississippi Democrats were invited to join the governor’s signing ceremony, none joined. Similarly, no Republicans were present for the congressional Democrats’ introduction of their voter bill. Both pieces of legislation will face challenges coming online. The intersection between what Democrats are attempting in Congress and what Republicans are attempting at the state level—in Mississippi and beyond—around voting shows a tragic collision from which democracy, citizens of color, and many without wealth and resources will be the casualties.
Mandating voters to show photo ID is just one more obstacle, yet none of these barriers have been recognized as such by the people pushing through new voting laws. Standing with Gov. Bryant as he signed the photo voter ID law was Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, who doesn’t acknowledge the challenges the law will present for voters because he’s focused on the challenge to the law will likely draw from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Before the law can go into effect, it has to pass muster with DOJ. DOJ has powers under the Voting Rights Act to investigate new election laws in any of its covered jurisdictions, including Mississippi. All too aware of this, Hosemann has already started instigating a fight with DOJ, fearful the voter ID law he fought so hard for might get blocked per Texas and South Carolina.
Those two states have not proven that their voter ID laws weren’t passed with discriminatory intent, or that they won’t have discriminatory impacts. But Hosemann thinks Mississippi doesn’t need to defend itself on racial grounds, despite the archival blood of numerous civil rights activists lynched and slain for helping black people vote.
Back to the Voter Empowerment Act. Its primary impact would be to automate voter registration through the federal government and through online services, as well as to institute Election Day registration to make it easier on voters, a quarter of whom are not registered. These options are all opposed by people like Adams and his True the Vote colleagues Hans von Spakovsky of Heritage Foundation—who wrote a letter to a Mississippi newspaper defending the voter ID law by citing the debunked Facebook DOJ-bias claim—and John Fund, who in his book “Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy” recognized Hosemann for linking voter fraud to poverty.
The congressional bill would also prohibit intimidation of voters at the polls and “voter caging,” the process of sending out mail to see what comes back as “undeliverable” and then using that info to create lists for purging voter rolls. Both tactic are encouraged by True the Vote activists.
Read more from Brentin Mock’s article on Colorlines