Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – People going to vote on Tuesday comfortable that they know the poll workers and will not need a government-issued photo identification to cast a ballot better think again.
In response to a request from the secretary of state’s office, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood has issued an official opinion stating that Mississippi law requires poll workers to seek photo ID from all voters, even those the poll workers might know. Poll workers who do not ask for ID could face legal consequences.
“Mississippi is one big small town,” Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said in news release. “When we cast our ballot on election day, there is a high probability of knowing the poll workers in the precinct. However, voter ID is not discretionary. Poll workers must ask for photo ID and voters must present photo ID at the polls on election day.”
When Mississippians go to the polls on Tuesday to cast a ballot in either the Republican or Democratic primaries for the U.S. Senate, U.S. House race and a smattering of other races, they will be required to show an ID for the first time.
Lafayette County Circuit Clerk Baretta Mosely said her office is taking steps to try to prevent the new requirement from slowing the election process.
“We have done some intense training,” she said. “I don’t think it will be a problem.”
Both Mosley and Lee County Circuit Clerk Joyce Roberts Loftin said they will have workers alerting people as they come into the polling place to have their ID ready. They both hope that will prevent any delays.
And if people do not have an ID, they will be directed to a location where they can vote affidavit. They then will have five days (not including the weekend) to come back to the circuit clerk’s office with an identification or even come to the circuit clerk’s office and acquire an ID.
IDs for the purpose of voting can be acquired at the circuit clerk’s office. At this point, a temporary ID will have to be granted, but even a temporary ID issued on election day can be used for the Tuesday primary vote.
To obtain an ID, a person needs some type of document with his or her name on it, such as a utility bill, check or Social Security card. A person’s birth certificate also can be verified free of charge at the circuit clerk’s office in order to obtain an ID.
As of Tuesday, 1,246 IDs have been issued by circuit clerks, including 37 in Lee County, according to information compiled by Hosemann’s office.
Loftin said the low number of people acquiring IDs is probably because most people already have an acceptable-for-voting ID, such as a driver’s license, or student ID.
She said she anticipates a low turnout Tuesday, giving election officials and voters time to get acclimated to the new requirement for upcoming elections where the turnout is expected to be much higher.
Hosemann said he is pleased that apparently Tuesday’s election will go off with no legal challenges to the state’s new voter ID law. In other states there have been challenges, some successful, that have halted the use of voter ID.
“I see this as a real watershed moment,” Hosemann said.
Various groups have indicated that a legal challenge could come after Tuesday’s election if there are problems with the new identification requirement for voters.