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ELECTION NIGHT BUZZKILL: Mississippi Passed a Voter ID Measure Last Night

On a night of electoral victories for progressives from state to state, Mississippi gave Democrats one of their few defeats. After rejecting a fairly radical anti-abortion initiative, voters in the Magnolia state voted in favor of a voter ID law that forces potential voters to show a photo ID in order to cast their ballot.

This law is part and parcel of the nationwide voter suppression movement. The issue had been debated for over 15 years in the Mississippi state house before Republican Senator Joey Fillingane of Sumrall launched a petition drive that got the initiative on the ballot. According to The Hattiesburg American, the issue has been controversial in the Deep South.

While supporters called it commonsense legislation, opponents said it could be viewed by black citizens as an attempt to diminish minority voting.

The National Conference of State Legislatures says 30 states require all voters to show ID at the polls — many of them in the Deep South. Fourteen of the 30 require photo ID.

The issue is far from settled, however. There is an automatic 30 day waiting period for the law to take effect and due to the track record of the state of Mississippi — and their history of racial discrimination — it may take longer. The U.S. Justice Department has the responsibility of making sure any new state election law does not dilute minority voting strength. This is likely to be quite a debate because forcing voter ID laws is widely viewed as suppressing minority voting ability.

Despite yesterday’s “win,” the nationwide voter suppression agenda is growing less and less popular. Yesterday, on the steps of New York City Hall, Reverend Al Sharpton, Benjamin Todd Jealous, Rep. Charles Rangel and labor leaders announced that the NAACP will begin a nationwide protest of the voter suppression agenda that will begin on December 10th.

The rallies are “intended to get this conversation out of the thought leader class and down to the street corners, so folks understand that their rights are being attacked,” Jealous said, adding that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People had already raised millions of dollars to support its campaign.

He said his group has been urging the Department of Justice, which is considering the legality of proposed policies in Texas and South Carolina, to block the laws.

“This is the greatest assault on voting rights, happening right now, that we have seen since the dawn of Jim Crow,” he said.

The voter suppression agenda didn’t enjoy a defeat-free night, though. Voters in Maine rejected the work of their state’s GOP and protected same-day voter registration, something that positively impacts the number of votes cast.

Maine voters defeated this voter suppression law at the polls. Conservative groups committed serious money and launched incendiary tactics to preserve this law but earned a defeat through the “people’s veto.”


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