The chairman of the Mississippi Democratic Party said today that a voter identification proposal before a state House committee could intimidate some people and prevent them from voting.

Wayne Dowdy also said enacting voter ID in Mississippi is not an effective way to eliminate or combat voter fraud.

“This issue is wrong for Mississippi,” Dowdy said. “We should focus our attention in Mississippi, and across this nation, on finding ways to encourage people to practice their right to vote and choose their leaders – and away from proposals that might actually discourage voters.”

The voter ID provision is part of a larger proposal that was discussed in a hearing today before a subcommittee of the state House Apportionment and Elections Committee. House Bill 714 also calls for early voting and party registration.

Keelan Sanders, executive director of the Mississippi Democratic Party, told subcommittee members during the hearing that the party supports early voting and believes it would encourage more people to participate in elections. [NOTE: Full text of comments follows this release.]

“We live in an extremely mobile society,” Sanders testified. “People no longer work Monday-through-Friday or 9-to-5 jobs. Early voting would ensure all people have a chance to exercise their right to vote in local, state and national elections.”

Sanders also told committee members that the party staunchly opposes the bill’s voter ID provisions. He said voter ID has the potential to intimidate minorities, the elderly and anyone who had been disenfranchised in the past through poll taxes and other means.

Besides that, he said, the party has seen no correlation between voter ID and a reduction in voter fraud. Sanders said that voter ID “does not stop vote buying, ballot tampering, absentee ballot fraud or even voting by non-residents.”

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Here is the text of Keelan Sanders’ statement on Wednesday to a subcommittee of the state House Apportionment and Elections Committee; the subcommittee held a formal hearing on House Bill 714.

Mr. chairman, members of the committee, thank you for giving the Mississippi Democratic Party this opportunity to share our thoughts on House Bill 714 and some of the issues raised by this legislation.

First, I want to let you know that our chairman, Congressman Wayne Dowdy, is out of the state attending a funeral and is unable to attend today’s hearing. Congressman Dowdy would have been here today if he could.

The Mississippi Democratic Party has and still remains staunchly opposed to any form or kind of voter identification. We believe voter ID likely would create more and new problems for our state and the election process.

In specific, we believe that voter ID could potentially intimidate minorities, the elderly and anyone who had been in the past disenfranchised from voting through the use of taxes and literacy tests. Voter ID would confuse, confound and upset those voters, frustrating them and possibly causing them not to participate in the election process at all.

Besides that, here’s another reason to avoid jumping on the voter ID bandwagon. As The Century Foundation, a nonprofit public policy research institution in Washington, has pointed out, scant evidence exists that voter ID actually combats voter fraud. Simply put: We have seen nothing to suggest a direct correlation between the two. Voter ID does not stop vote buying, ballot tampering, absentee voter fraud or even voting by non-residents.

On other issues, the Mississippi Democratic Party supports efforts that would encourage more people to participate in elections and work toward ending or reducing voter apathy. In specific, we support early voting in Mississippi.

We live in an extremely mobile society today. People no longer work Monday-through-Friday or 9-to-5 jobs. Some don’t have 40-hour work weeks. Many people travel frequently, and sometimes unexpectedly, with work.

Early voting would ensure all people have a chance to exercise their right to vote in local, state and national elections. Early voting is one way to help generate excitement among people who want to vote but sometimes find themselves unable to do so because of work or other sudden commitments.

MS Democratic Party Press Release
2/13/8