Voter ID laws just decided an election in Mississippi

In a special election runoff last Tuesday, Glenn Bolin and Stephanie Bounds both received exactly 177 votes to become the next alderman for Poplarville, Mississippi.

However, while 354 ballots were cast, 355 people showed up to vote. One person showed up without a valid photo ID and was forced to vote by affidavit. They didn’t return to the registrar’s office with the required ID, so the two candidates drew straws to determine the winner. Bolin won.

We can’t be sure who would have won had all of the votes been counted, because no one knows who the 355th voter is or who they supported. In fact, the town drew straws two days after the election instead of the state-mandated five business days (which would have been yesterday) because no one expected them to show up. As Bolin noted after the initial balloting, “My thinking is that person is not going to come in, because they don’t want all the attention of being the one vote.”

So, the fact that the election came down to straws was very much due to the rejection and subsequent social intimidation of this anonymous voter who was not, by any stretch of the imagination, attempting to impersonate someone else at the polls.

For those of you keeping score at home, when it comes to changing the outcome of elections in the modern era, that’s voter ID laws: 1; voter  impersonation: 0.

I shouldn’t have to restate here, but I will, how mind-numbingly backwards, racist and misdirected voter photo ID laws are. I also shouldn’t have to restate how many better ways there are to reform and improve upon our antiquated election system. This is an embarrassment for Mississippi, and really for any state that has attempted to restrict voting access via ID requirements in the last decade.

I was curious to see what Mississippi State Senator Joey Fillingane (R – Sumrall) and Delegate Bill Denny Jr. (R – Hinds), the law’s sponsors, think about this, so I emailed them. Do they think their laws have been a success? How do they even measure success for laws like this? How does the Poplarville election factor into their evaluation of the law? So far, I haven’t heard back. I’ll update this post if they respond.

Come to think of it, I’d be curious to see how all of the sponsors of similar laws on the books feel about this. Below are links to the sponsors of photo ID laws in the eight states where they are currently on the books. If you live in these states, you know what to do:

Arkansas, GeorgiaIndiana (Indiana’s law is now old enough that its sponsor, State Senator Victor Heinold, is now retired), Kansas, MississippiTennesseeTexas and Virginia. I should probably throw in North Carolina, whose photo ID law is slated to go into effect in 2016.

If these elected officials have the slightest sense of shame over the absolute disaster that has been photo ID in their states, they should say so. At the very least, they should be asked.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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6 Responses to “Voter ID laws just decided an election in Mississippi”

  1. Richard says:

    Republicans are counting on democratic voters being lazy and not bothering to secure (or being able to afford) the “required” photo ID thereby reducing the number of democratic voters allowing the republicans to win. I’m surprised republicans haven’t gone back to the guess the number of jelly beans in the jar method for voters after their friends at SCOTUS gutted the voting rights act.

  2. rmthunter says:

    I detect a slight misapprehension, or perhaps just a misstatement: the proponents of voter ID laws are not interested in reforming the elections system; they are trying to gut it.

  3. Houndentenor says:

    It’s happening nationwide. I don’t have a problem shaming Mississippians but there are at least 20 states where the same thing is happening.

  4. Badgerite says:

    I can’t help but think the three judge panel ( all conservatives ) made this ruling at this time because the polls show Walker is in trouble. And that makes it rather clear and blatant that the purpose of these laws is to suppress the vote of citizens who would not vote for him. Were that not the case, the court would have allowed a decent amount of time for implementation and preparation to take place. They didn’t. Knowingly.
    I have a state issued picture ID, but I still take umbrage at being asked for it at the polls.
    It is offensive on some level. Good comment. Especially the links and phone numbers.

  5. Drew2u says:

    Wisconsin Voter ID Law Opponents Want New Hearing

    MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Civil rights advocates said Tuesday they plan to ask the full 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider a ruling by a three-judge panel that reinstated Wisconsin’s voter photo identification law.
    With seven weeks until Election Day and with absentee ballots already coming in, state and local elections officials were working feverishly to implement the law after Friday’s ruling, which came just hours after oral arguments in the case.

    The American Civil Liberties Union and the Advancement Project released a statement saying they planned to file a motion with the court Tuesday asking for a re-hearing in front of the entire appeals court, a proceeding that usually involves around 10 judges, rather than the three who typically decide cases.

    The court rarely grants such requests, but the two groups vowed to exhaust every legal option to stop the law.

  6. Demosthenes says:

    Mr. Green: you described this as an embarrassment for Mississippi.

    Surely you know that Mississippi is incapable of being embarrassed?

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