Mississippi Republicans hope to use a ballot initiative to enact voter identification laws, the source of bitter political fighting with Democrats for years.
The state GOP hopes to raise $200,000 for mail outs, radio ads and manpower to promote the petition for voting law changes.
Nearly 90,000 signatures would be required by an October deadline to allow the voter ID measure to appear on the ballot with Congressional elections in 2010. If the October deadline is missed and the group is able to get the nearly 90,000 signatures by a February deadline, the measure could appear on the 2011 ballot. Sen. Joey Fillingane, R-Sumrall, who sponsored the ballot initiative, said Friday it is estimated the group already has about 25,000 signatures.
During this year’s legislative session, Fillingane and three other Republicans, Sens. Billy Hewes III, R-Gulfport, Merle Flowers, R-Southaven and Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville, killed a voter ID measure in committee. Fillingane said the group opposed the measure because it included early voting weeks before an election and Republicans believed the voter rolls should be purged of dead voters before that was allowed. The bill also would have allowed exceptions for some voters over 65, but Fillingane said much of the fraud that has happened has involved using the identities of the elderly. There were also provisions for felons regaining voting rights that some Republicans opposed, he said. Killing the bill angered some other Republicans, who had worked on the measure and supported voter ID.
“There were four other really bad parts of the bill and it was not worth us having to swallow those,” Fillingane said.
A statement from the Mississippi Democratic Party Friday said the GOP ballot initiative really aims to increase GOP voter turnout. In 2010, Mississippi will reelect U.S. Representatives and three of Mississippi’s four Congressional districts are currently held by Democrats.
“We had voter ID,” the Democrats’ statement said. “There was a voter ID bill in the Legislature and Republicans killed it. They are trying to get voter ID on the ballot. It is clear that for them it is nothing but a political game. If they really want voter ID, it was done in the Legislature.”