Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Voter ID may be a non-issue for Mississippi in the upcoming presidential elections in November, but the fight is far from over for the Magnolia State. Depending on whether the U.S. Department of Justice clears the law, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann will either put procedures in place to ensure every eligible voter can get a card, or the law's opponents will take the state to court fighting its implementation.
Those are the likely scenarios. What is less likely to happen—and in our opinion, far more important—is that Mississippi ensures the integrity of every vote cast rather than Hosemann use his position to help his Republican Party. As Ronni Mott points out in her story on page 14, "Where Voter ID Stands in Mississippi," Rutgers University gave an "inadequate" rating to the state's emergency procedures at the polls and its reconciliation procedures after votes are cast.
Jacksonians have a recent example of what can happen when poll workers don't take their jobs seriously in the July 24 court-ordered runoff election between Councilwoman LaRita Cooper-Stokes and Joyce Jackson for the Ward 3 Jackson City Council seat. At one precinct, 88 votes went uncounted—because the poll manager failed to reconcile the electronic votes against the number of people who signed in to vote. Without an observant Jackson Free Press reporter who noticed that the numbers didn't add up, those votes would have gone uncounted.
It's a small discrepancy at one precinct in an election that, on the national scale, has little consequence. But what's true in small elections may also be true in big ones, and 88 uncounted votes in a few hundred individual polling places across the U.S. could well make the difference in who leads the country.
The conservative spin on enacting voter-ID laws is that progressives and liberals aren't interested in protecting the sanctity of the vote, and would allow voter fraud to run rampant. That's nonsense, of course—with no evidence of a voter-fraud problem that voter ID would fix, to boot. The progressive stance has always been that voting is a fundamental right (not a privilege) in a democracy. Because it is a right, voting procedures should make it as simple and easy as possible, removing barriers instead of erecting them, especially without evidence of need..
Clearly, voter ID laws erect barriers for many of our citizens to exercise their right to vote. Perhaps, if proponents of such laws could demonstrate their necessity by showing hundreds of cases of actual voter-fraud cases, we could understand the necessity. However, few such cases actually exist.
The reason is simple: Fraud at the ballot box is enormously difficult to pull off, and it is a particularly inept way to throw an election. Successful voter fraud begins long before the ballot box, when politicians lie or buy off the electorate.
Let's face it: Voter IDs are a "solution" to a problem that doesn't exist. We might get stuck with it, but Mississippi would do much better to spend its funds to correct demonstrable problems at the polls instead.