Election Reform, Voter ID on Legislative Table

By: Jon Kalahar Email
By: Jon Kalahar Email

The 2009 Mississippi legislative session starts Tuesday with a special opening ceremony at the Old Capitol Building. What won't be new for lawmakers will be talk of election reform, specifically voter identification.

So what are the chances that changes will be made to Mississippi's voting process?

The legislature created an election reform review panel and its findings were issued through Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann's office in December.

"Voter ID has got a new resurgence," said Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant.

So much so, Bryant made it a part of his agenda for the '09 session. But the senate passed voter ID last year only to see it never come to the House floor for a vote.

This year however, Rep. Brandon Jones is already preparing to bring a bill forward that includes voter ID and early voting.

"Having elections that are perceived to be safe and run in a proper way is an important concern and having elections that encourage people to get out and get involved in the process is very important," Jones said.

Jones said he believes voter ID and early voting will do just that. However, the election reform review panel found costs may be a concern for circuit clerks across the state to staff offices open for early voting. The lieutenant governor has other concerns.

"If it is secure, if we know it can be restructured and if it might eliminate for example what I think is the abuse on absentee balloting I'll consider it," Bryant said.

House majority leader Tyrone Ellis wouldn't commit either way.

"It's hard to say what opposition people will have," said Ellis."I think it's going to have a little more favorable than what we've had in the past."

On top of voter ID, early voting and absentee voting, the report also addressed purging voter rolls, assisted voting, stiffer penalties for election fraud violations and curbside voting reforms.

But all of this is talk until the session begins and a bill is actually presented. Proponents of voter ID, however, say they are encouraged.


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