UPDATE: HB 921, which passed the House in March, has now passed the Senate and gone into concurrence. It’s unlikely to go into effect before the November elections. HB 1315, which also got through the House, has died in committee in the Senate.
Last November, Mississippi voters approved by referendum a voter ID constitutional amendment. Because it requires enacting legislation, the House has passed HB 921. It must get through the Senate and Governor, and be approved by the US Department of Justice, before becoming law. Representative Bill Denny, an ALEC member, is its primary sponsor.
After passionate debate, lawmakers passed 63-57 a measure that would set up rules on those who can assist a voter and how often. For instance, a Mississippi voter would have to get the assistance of two election officials, rather than just one, and if someone other than an election official were to assist those blind or otherwise disabled, that person must swear under oath he or she has followed the law.
Under that proposed law, those who aren’t election officials are limited to helping 10 people. The measure also would require signed declarations of attesting witnesses.
The legislation connects with the voter fraud law, which carries up to five years in prison if convicted. The bill also connects with voter intimidation, which carries up to a year in jail.
Voters seeking assistance deserve strong legal protections, and those providing assistance should have their best interests at heart, but people who face already significant obstacles to enfranchisement shouldn’t be forced to climb even higher hurdles.
For more information, check out The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation.