Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann would like the Department of Justice employee who called Mississippi’s pursuit of a voter ID statute “disgusting and shameful” removed from any involvement in the state’s application to implement the new law.
Stefanie Gyamfi, who works in DOJ’s Voting Rights Division, made the comments on Facebook. Hosemann said at a press conference Tuesday morning that he became aware of them last week.
“I’m tired of people who don’t live in Mississippi stereotyping us,” Hosemann said.
Federal law requires a state seeking approval from DOJ on matters like the implementation of a voter ID law be treated with impartiality, something Hosemann said he’s afraid “isn’t happening here.”
Mississippi’s voter ID law must meet Section 5 of 1965’s Voting Rights Act. That section requires preclearance of any new voting law in states of covered jurisdiction. DOJ has recently rejected voter ID applications from South Carolina and Texas. Hosemann said Mississippi crafted its bill with that in mind. For example, he said, Texas and South Carolina’s law did not provide free IDs to anybody who needed one. Mississippi’s does.
Mississippi’s application process has already started. Attorney General Jim Hood submitted the preliminary paperwork in January, and DOJ responded in March. The next big step will come after Gov. Phil Bryant signs the bill enacting voter ID, which was passed this session in response to last fall’s ballot initiative. The bill will be made a part of the state’s application.
If Hosemann is convinced strongly enough that Mississippi won’t get a fair shake from DOJ, litigating the state’s application in front of a three-judge panel of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia is an option. Hosemann said he’s already considering doing that.