The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday overturned a ruling that would have forced Mississippians to register by political party and to show photo identification at the polls to be able to vote.
U.S. District Judge Allen Pepper in Mississippi ruled last year that the state should re-register all voters to allow people to declare themselves as Democrats, Republicans or members of another party. Or, Pepper said, people could register as unaffiliated with any party. Pepper said Mississippi must restructure its party primary system by Aug. 31, 2008.
Under current law, Mississippians do not declare a party affiliation when they register to vote.
Pepper had also ordered the state to enact a voter identification law in time for the 2009 elections.
The Mississippi Democratic Party, which brought the lawsuit in 2006 seeking to keep nonparty members from voting in its primaries, appealed Pepper’s ruling. Some black Democrats have complained that whites sympathetic to Republicans have been voting in the Democratic primaries.
Joining the Democrats in the appeal were the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the state and the Mississippi Republican Party.
Ellis Turnage of Cleveland, attorney for the Democratic Party, was out of his office and was not available for comment.
Brad White, executive director of the Mississippi GOP, said the decision puts everyone back to where they were before the Democrats’ lawsuit.
“We continue to say our primaries are open to all individuals who share our beliefs and support Republican candidates. We’re not about making it more difficult for people to vote in our primaries,” White said.