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Mississippi voter ID law delayed pending federal review

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood [official website] announced Tuesday that the state's voter identification law will not take effect [press release] before the November 6 election. The new legislation [HB 921 materials], which would require voters to show photo ID to vote in any election in the state, must be approved by the US Department of Justice [official website] pursuant to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) [Cornell LII backgrounder]. Mississippi requested pre-clearance of the voter ID law for the upcoming election, but the DOJ responded by requesting more information about the proposed changes. Specifically, the DOJ requested data showing that voting rights of minority citizens would not be negatively effected by the law, and that the legislation does not have any discriminatory purpose. Mississippi must also produce a list of all registered voters [Reuters report], identifying each by name, race, birth date, address, Social Security number and driver's license or ID number. Hood said some of this information has already been compiled by state officials.

Voting rights [JURIST backgrounder] remain a contentious issue in the US, particularly in the run-up to the November presidential election. There are now 32 US states [NCSL backgrounder] that require voters to present some form of ID at the polls, but the issue remains controversial. Most recently, a judge for the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court [official website] issued a preliminary injunction [JURIST report] earlier this week preventing Pennsylvania's voter identification law [HB 943 materials] from taking effect for the upcoming presidential election. Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant [official website] signed [JURIST report] that state's voter ID bill into law in May. The law enacts a constitutional amendment that was approved by 62 percent of Mississippi voters [JURIST report] last year's November election.

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