JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi's top elections official says the state should start issuing free voter identification cards in early 2014, months before the first election in which people will be required to show photo IDs at the polls.
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said the cards will be available to any voter who lacks a government-issued photo ID. People who already have an acceptable form of photo ID — including a driver's license, a U.S. passport, a gun permit or a college identification — will not need a separate card.
"If you have those, of course, we will thank you for coming, but we will not issue you an ID," Hosemann said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Voters will have to start showing photo ID at the polls in June, during party primaries for U.S. House and Senate races, Hosemann said. No ID is required for people who vote by mail.
Mississippians approved a voter ID constitutional amendment in 2011, and legislators put the mandate into law in 2012. At that time, Mississippi and other states with a history of racial discrimination needed federal approval, or "preclearance," to alter their election laws.
The Mississippi voter ID proposals were still being analyzed by the U.S. Justice Department this past summer. Then, a Supreme Court ruling in late June struck down part of the Voting Rights Act and erased the requirement for federal approval in the "preclearance" states.
Since that ruling, Hosemann has been working on rules to implement voter ID.
Hosemann and other supporters say requiring ID will prevent people from masquerading as others to vote. But, opponents have long said that requiring photo identification could squash the constitutional rights of people who forget to obtain a required type of ID or leave it at home while trying to vote.