Voter ID is going to happen in Mississippi, according to Greg Snowden, Mississippi House District 83 representative, who spoke to members of the Council of Governments on Monday.
COG is a group of city and county officials who meet once a month to discuss issues affecting Lauderdale County, Meridian and Marion.
Snowden noted that the U.S. Department of Justice last week asked the Mississippi Attorney General's office for more information to determine if the new law, which requires a valid, government-issued photo ID for voters, discriminates against minority voters.
The law was passed by the Mississippi Legislature after a statewide referendum on the law passed last November.
"This is the last election we're going to have without Voter ID," Snowden said. "It's a certainty that it's going to happen and I'll tell you why. The Supreme Court of the United States has already said you can have it. You've got a House and a Senate that's committed to doing it."
Snowden said people seem to think that the Justice Department has the last word on the subject.
"The Justice Department does not have the last word on Voter ID," he said. "They have the first word on Voter ID. If they point out something that's not right, we'll fix it."
With the exception of the upcoming Nov. 6 elections and the possible exception of municipal elections in the spring of 2013, Snowden said Mississippi has seen the last of elections without Voter ID. The only thing that might change that, he said, is if the U.S. Supreme Court changed its mind about Voter ID. Snowden said Mississippi Voter ID was modeled after Indiana's Voter ID law, which the U.S. Supreme Court approved.
"For instance, for people who don't have a photo ID, the state will provide them one," Snowden said. "We allow students to use student IDs that some other states don't. We feel that the law we passed will pass muster, but if it doesn't we'll fix it."
The Legislature heard the people's wishes on this when 62 percent of voters who cast their ballots in the state last year voted in favor of Voter ID.
"We're going to have to do it right. We want to do it right. We think we've done it right.," he said. "If not, somebody will tell us that we've done it wrong and we'll have to fix it. It will happen."
A larger problem is absentee ballots, he said. Snowden said he and many other people agree that the procedure for casting absentee ballots is an invitation for problems.
"I think that early voting is the way you get around it," he said.
People in Mississippi are already voting early, but it is through absentee ballots, he said, which are generally supposed to be used only if the voter knows he or she will be out of town on election day.
"My own personal opinion is that we need to make it easier for people to do that so they don't worry about the absentee ballot situation," Snowden said. "Have people come in and vote early if they want to."
In a related matter, Lauderdale County Circuit Clerk Donna Jill Johnson issued a statement on Monday regarding absentee ballots.
"The State of Mississippi does not have early voting, but we have always had absentee voting where the voter has to have a legal reason to vote an absentee ballot," Johnson said. "The most common reason is the voter is going to be out of town on vacation, with many going to the mountains during this time, or conventions and conferences schedules, or military assignments, or occupations like truck drivers and railroad employees."
College students can vote while home on fall break or have a ballot mailed to them, which does require a notary.
"If you have surgery set for that week, come now and vote," Johnson said.
Also, voters who work during the polling hours of 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. may cast an absentee.
"We have many voters in the medical field with shift work, or work for Nissan in Jackson, or work in Philadelphia at Pearl River Resort, or to Alabama at the mill," Johnson said. "They have a legal reason to vote now."
Circuit Clerks are asking the voters to look at their calendar and see where will they be on Nov. 6, to see if they have a need to vote an absentee ballot now. Ballots are available in the clerk’s office during normal business hours of 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the present time.
If a ballot needs to be mailed, timing is very important with the absentee procedure, as sometimes it might require a notary, like a college student away at school, according to Johnson.
If a voter has a legal reason to vote an absentee ballot, Circuit Clerks are asking the voter to come vote now and not wait.
Contact your Circuit Clerks office for any absentee inquiries or questions.
Lauderdale County-------601 482-9731
Clarke County-------------601 776-3397
Kemper County-----------601 743-2224
Newton County---------- 601-635-2368
Scott County--------------601 469-3601