May 1, 2014 10:38:49 AM
During the month of April, Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann began criss-crossing the state -- at taxpayer expense, naturally -- to promote the state-mandated Voter ID law that will require Mississippians to produce a state-issued ID before casting a ballot.
Mississippi's version of Voter ID is obviously a point of pride for Hosemann, who long advocated for the measure during his tenure in the Legislature before becoming secretary of state. On a stop at the Lowndes County courthouse on April 14, Hosemann was effusive in his praise of the law and its implementation. While many similar Voter ID laws have faced legal challenges -- Wisconsin's law was struck down in federal court just this week -- Hosemann was quick to point out that Mississippi's law is so wonderfully constructed that it has yet to face any legal challenge. In fact, he said, his office has won two national awards for how the law has been advertised and promoted.
The state has spent about $300,000 -- money appropriated by the Legislature -- to make sure that all eligible voters have proper IDs.
The result? By mid-April, between 600 and 700 new Voter IDs had been issued state-wide. In Lowndes County, a three-toed sloth could count the number. Yep, a total of three Voter IDs had been issued through Lowndes County Circuit Clerk Haley Salazar's office.
This week, we learned that a rumor circulating about a potential problem with some IDs might create a problem, a claim quickly shot down by election officials. The rumor was that women who had married and changed their last names after having previously registered to vote might not be allowed to vote because the name on their ID wouldn't match the name on their voter registration.
Not true, Salazar said this week.
As best we can tell, the names don't even have to match. The addresses don't, either. As for the photo on the ID, it need not necessarily be a recent photo. For example, if you renew your driver's license online, you might be able to vote with a 10-year-old photo.
In short, the validity of the ID presented at the polls is pretty much up to the discretion of poll workers.
So the state is spending more than $300 per head on to provide IDs in an effort to implement a system that falls far short of the precision you would expect for a program touted to end voter fraud in our state.
The biggest fraud is still out there: It's called the Mississippi Legislature, which continues to pump out legislation to solve problems that don't exist in an effort to pander to a voter base whose gullibility is exceeded only by its paranoia.
During a three-year study of federal elections, data showed that of the 197 million votes cast, 40 voters were indicted on voter fraud charges. Of all those voters, .00000013 percent were actually convicted of voter fraud.
So naturally, Mississippi's leaders have to do something about that "epidemic" of voter fraud.
We should not be surprised, of course. During this year's session, the Legislature passed laws to "affirm Mississippians' right to hunt and fish" and "to restore religious liberty in Mississippi." As far as we can tell, the only thing preventing someone from hunting and fishing is a spouse that demands that the yard needs mowing instead. The only thing standing in the way of exercising our religious liberties is a really good NFL matchup that kicks off the same time as church services start.
Still, we are comforted to know that our legislators remain vigilant in guarding against imaginary threats. The real threats -- inadequate education, poverty, poor medical care, deteriorating roads and bridges -- will have to wait.
But we do have a real fraud problem when it comes to voting. But the frauds are not the people who turn up at the polls to vote. It is the people the voters put into office.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Lynn Spruill: Thanksgiving for every day LOCAL COLUMNS