A bill that could lead to an expedited purging of voter rolls across Mississippi passed the Senate Wednesday.
The bill, authored by Senator Jeff Tate who chairs the Election Committee, passed the chamber by a 36-16 margin along party lines after a contentious debate on the floor. If sent to the governor’s desk, voters who do not cast a vote in any election over a span of four years could be subject to being purged from the roles.
This would occur if the individual doesn’t respond to a confirmation notice sent by the state, verifying that they live at the address on the books. The bill (SB 2588) states that you have four years to respond or update your registration information.
Senator Tate expressed that the purpose of the bill is to clean up the state’s voter rolls in an effort to discourage voter fraud, while Senate Democrats pushed back on that idea, stating that allegations of fraud are not backed by substantial evidence. In an adverse effect, Senator David Jordan, an African American Senator from District 24, argued that this will suppress the vote of Mississippi’s minority population.
“I think people who look like me have paid a great price in Mississippi and across this nation to become a full class citizen. To bring a bill that could disenfranchise and create problems for people of color to vote and it’s aimed directly at people like me, is wrong and we don’t have to do this,” he said.
Additionally, Senator Hob Bryan emotionally exclaimed that the bill could take away voting eligibility from thousands of Mississippians who may not participate in the political process at every turn.
“The whole purpose of this is to remove you from the rolls and take away from you you’re right to vote, to make it illegal for you to vote, to keep you from being able to vote. That is the heart and soul of this legislation. For tens of thousands of people in Mississippi, eligible voters who haven’t done a thing in the world except to choose not to vote in every single election and didn’t get a postcard or whatever the thing is, they are going to be denied their right to vote by the tens of thousands and you know it!”
While addressing the chamber, he referenced how voters in both parties who may have not voted for years came out in droves to vote for Barack Obama in 2008 and Donald Trump in 2016.
Senator David Blount refuted claims of voter fraud as the basis of the bill and offered an amendment to the bill that would alter the process, but it failed.
The bill now moves over to the House for consideration.