August 5, 2009 10:53:00 AM
Neal Wagner -
Fairness, not partisanship, is the driving force behind a statewide push to bring voter identification laws to Mississippi, area Republican officials said during a Tuesday afternoon rally at the Lowndes County Courthouse.
"We probably got closer this year than we have ever been to having a voter ID law passed," Mississippi Republican Party Chairman Brad White told a group of about 20 people gathered in front of the courthouse. "But the House leadership attached several measures that didn''t make it a fair compromise.
"The bill would have also allowed early voting, voting by felons and so forth," White added. "The bill didn''t pass because of that."
Because the Mississippi Legislature several times has failed to pass the voter identification bill, White and other Republican officials are traveling the state in an attempt to gather nearly 100,000 signatures in support of the bill.
If the officials gather the signatures, state law will require the issue to go before Mississippi voters during the next statewide election, explained White and Lowndes County Republican Chair Nan Lott.
"We must collect almost 100,000 signatures by Oct. 1 this year to get it on the Nov. 2010 ballot," White said. "We have until February to get the signatures to get it on the Nov. 2011 ballot."
If passed, the voter identification law would require voters to provide a driver''s license or other form of identification before casting their votes at polling locations across the state.
The measure would help combat voter fraud by allowing poll workers to confirm the voter''s identity before allowing them to vote, White said.
"In Ocean Springs in June, a Republican mayor was defeated by about 80 votes," White told the crowd. "A few weeks later, I got a list of about two dozen people who supposedly cast votes in the election, and their obituaries were attached. There is definitely a concerted effort to replace those deceased voters with fraudulent votes."
"If this passes, the state will issue a picture ID without charge to anyone who doesn''t have one," Lott said. "So there''s really no excuse for not supporting this. It won''t cure all the problems, but it sure will fix a lot of them."
Because the nearly 100,000 petition signatures must be evenly split among the state''s four congressional districts, voter identification supporters must collect a minimum of about 20,000 signatures from each district.
Because Lowndes County is one of the most populous counties in the 1st District, local bill supporters must collect about 5,000 signatures from county residents.
"If we can just get the issue on the ballot, I think it will be passed easily," Lott said, noting anyone interested in signing the petition can visit the Lowndes County Circuit Clerk''s office or www.msgop.org.
"This isn''t a Democratic or Republican issue. I haven''t had anyone turn me down yet when I asked them to sign the petition," Lott added. "It''s just a matter of getting the petition before people and making them aware of the issue."