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Bryant will fight federal preclearance in state elections

CANTON — Gov. Phil Bryant said today that he’d fight any effort to make Mississippi return to a federal preclearance process for election changes.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder last week asked federal judges to make Texas continue seeking preclearance. Holder’s request came weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states with a history of racial discrimination no longer need federal approval to change their own voting laws or procedures.

Bryant’s comments came today in response to reporters’ questions after an economic development announcement in Canton. The governor talked specifically about voter ID.

In November 2011, 62 percent of Mississippi voters approved a state constitutional amendment that says everyone must show government-issued photo identification before voting. In 2012, legislators passed a bill to put voter ID into law. Both measures were sent to the U.S. Justice Department for evaluation of whether they’d diminish minorities’ voting strength.

The June 25 ruling erased the need for federal preclearance by blocking part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said he’d move forward with implementing the voter ID law, including providing free photo ID to anyone who doesn’t have it. Republican Hosemann said voters might have to start showing ID in mid-2014.

Bryant said Tuesday: “It would be very disappointing to see the United States attorney general basically ignore the Supreme Court and move forward to try to stop what was clearly a legal movement on the part of the people the state of Mississippi — not only the Legislature, but the people had an opportunity to vote on that.”

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