February 28, 2014 10:09:07 AM
JACKSON -- The Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus is asking U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to block the state's plan to start using a voter identification law.
"The law adversely affects Mississippi's most vulnerable population, namely, the elderly, minorities and disabled," the caucus wrote a letter dated Wednesday and released Thursday.
Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann says the June 3 federal primaries will be the first time Mississippi voters will be required to show a driver's license or other form of government-issued photo identification at the polls.
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 to alter election laws. Mississippi's voter ID proposals were still being analyzed by the Justice Department last summer when a Supreme Court ruling struck down part of the Voting Rights Act and erased the requirement for federal approval.
However, the caucus wrote that under a surviving part of the Voting Rights Act, Section 3, the federal government can require "preclearance" of election changes from states with recent records of discrimination in voting practices.
"With Mississippi's long history of deliberate discrimination and considering that voter ID has not been fully implemented, the members of the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus ask for immediate intervention by the (Justice) Department pursuant to Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act," the caucus wrote.
Mississippi's voter ID law says people can show one of 10 types of government-issued photo identification, including a driver's license, a passport, a student ID from any accredited public or private college or a gun license. People who lack an acceptable form of ID can go to a circuit clerk's office to get a free, state-issued voter ID card that includes the name, address and photo.
Hosemann spokeswoman Pamela Weaver said the secretary of state believes that less than 1 percent of Mississippi voters will require a voter ID card because they lack another acceptable form of identification.
"Mississippi's constitutional amendment, adopted by 62 percent of voters, meets all legal standards," Weaver said in a written statement. "Every eligible Mississippian who requests a Mississippi voter ID card will promptly receive one."