Thursday, July 2, 2009
Petition pushes voter ID
By SUE WATSON
One Mississippi senator and the secretary of state want to amend the Mississippi Constitution to require voter photo identification.
Initiative #27, sponsored by Sen. Joey Fillingane and supported by Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, would require government issued photo identification cards to be presented at the polls before a person is allowed to vote.
A statewide petition is being circulated to get Initiative #27 on the ballot for referendum in the 2010 or 2011 election.
Mississippi is one of only seven states that does not require some sort of voter identification before casting a ballot, Fillingane said.
“Not all states necessarily require the same exact type of photo identification as we are proposing but suffice it to say that once again, Mississippi is very near the last state in the Union to take this important step to safeguard our election system,” he said. “I believe Mississippians will feel much safer about the integrity of our election system once photo identification is in place for voting.
“Let’s face it, you cannot fly out of any airport, cash a check or even pick up tickets to a movie or ballgame now without showing your photo identification. Why then should casting a ballot be any different? This is one of our most important rights and responsibilities as citizens of our state and nation. Therefore, I believe that we should all be happy to prove that we are who we claim to be on election day prior to voting.”
Fillingane said there should be no reason a citizen or elected official would not be interested in stopping voter fraud with photo I.D.
“(They would object) only if they were interested in cheating on election day,” he said. “That is the only conceivable reason I can come up with for why anyone would oppose voter identification.”
He said requiring voters to present a photo I.D. at the polls “would be a huge step forward in securing the integrity of our election system in Mississippi.”
Filllingane said 90,000 signatures from around the state are needed to get Initiative #27 on the ballot.
“But our goal is to get thousands more than necessary just to compensate for invalid signatures that may be inadvertently submitted,” he said.
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann is also pushing the initiative.
He said making photo identification a part of the voting process has been discussed for the last 10 to 15 years by politicians in the state and both houses but has failed to pass both the House and the Senate.
A constitutional amendment such as Initiative #27 may be a long shot, too, he said.
“It would be the first constitutional amendment to pass,” he said.
Two of the prior 26 proposed amendments to the state constitution have made the ballot but both were voted down by Mississippians. The two amendments were for term limits, he said.
Hosemann said any government-issued photo identification - a driver’s license, a student I.D. card, or other government issued photo I.D. - could be used as identification at the polls. Most people have one, he said. Anyone who does not have a photo I.D. would be provided one free by the government if the amendment gets on the ballot and passes. Or they can vote affidavit and their vote will be counted, he said.
Hosemann said there are 29 counties in Mississippi who have more people registered to vote than are “breathing eligible to vote.”
“The entire point of this is to protect the ballot security to help stop voter fraud,” he said. “We have a problem with voter fraud in Mississippi and it varies from county to county.
“I am even more convinced now, having run the elections for two years, that we need a voter I.D.”
A petition signer must be a registered voter in the state of Mississippi. Petitions are available by going online to www.ms4voterid.com. Petitions are also available by calling Ryan Aldridge with the Mississippi Republican Party at 601-948-5191.
“Very soon we will hopefully have pick-up and drop-off sites available at the local Farm Bureau offices throughout the state, as well, although that is still a few weeks away,” Fillingane said.
Those who want to work to get signatures on a petition can also obtain a copy of the petition on the Secretary of State’s website along with information about the voter I.D. initiative. Copy the petition, get signatures from registered voters and turn the petition in to the circuit clerk’s office to have the petition certified and sent on to Sen. Fillingane. Visit www.sos.ms.us/elections/initiatives/initiative 0027.asp for more information on the initiative.
Petitions have to be completed and verified by October 1, 2009, if Initiative #27 is to be placed on the November 2010 ballot and signed and certified by February 10, 2010 to put it on the 2011 ballot.
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