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Could Voter Identification Lead to Disenfranchisement in Mississippi?

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Yes, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour apologized (barely) for his racist rendition of the segregationist-era Citizens Councils in his Yazoo City hometown. And at year's end, the governor did finally pardon and release Jamie and Gladys Scott, two African American sisters sentenced in 1994 to life imprisonment for their (minimal) role in an $11 robbery. More, the record has been set straight about the Citizens' Councils' efforts to suppress the NAACP's voter registration efforts in Yazoo City and its attempts to turn back the black freedom movement in the 1960s. We even know about Haley's brother Jeppie Barbour's role during that time, thanks to Amanda Terkel's December 20 HuffPost piece, which cited Willie Morris' 1971 book, Yazoo: Integration in a Deep-Southern Town.

Basically, Brother Jeppie exemplified the white chauvinism so openly displayed in that era, and he actively fought against integration.

The window opened by this story, however, has not yet closed. Remember, the Citizens' Councils have been reincarnated as the Council of Conservative Citizens (C of CC). Although now headquartered in St. Louis and weaker than its predecessor, the C of CC remains a force, as a short re-cap of its recent activities in Mississippi will show.

For example, Mississippi produces the largest number of repeat advertisers in the C of CC's quarterly tabloid, Citizens Informer: Q-Ball's Barbecue in Indianola; Stanford's Farm and Feed in Carrollton; Harry Sanders grocery and Peoples Bank & Trust in North Carrollton; Hudson Flower Shop in Calhoun City; Gaines B. Smith Jewelers in Batesville; Roper Books in Southaven; Magnolia State Family Medicine in Ripley; and The Crystal Grill in Greenwood.

The C of CC also supports a couple of private schools and holds regular meetings in a number of cities. During the summer, a Jackson-area meeting was addressed by James Edwards, an internet radio host popular in white nationalist circles, and a leading personality in the newly emergent group, American Third Position. A September 23 meeting in Jackson heard from Louis T. March, heralded as a one-time aide to Sen. Jesse Helms and a lifetime member of the C of CC. The Webster County meeting in Mathison on July 26, heard from the Rev. Jimmy Lathan, a Council member and pastor of a church in Bellafontaine. He spoke about the dangers that "liberals" pose to churches. In Carroll County that August, an address by the former national chaplain of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans was well received.

The most noteworthy meeting last year may have been in Carrollton, however, where Jeppi Barbour addressed a January 2010 C of CC meeting held in the Carroll Academy.

(It was the opprobrium directed at Sen. Trent Lott for his appearances at Carroll County C of CC events that caused the Republican leader such grief in 1999.)

Haley's brother Jeppi spoke that day in support of a petition to put "voter ID" on the statewide ballot in 2011. The previous November, he had graced the platform at a Tea Party meeting in Meridian to drum up support for that measure. A more appropriate name for that initiative might have been the "voter suppression initiative," as it is designed to narrow the window for poor and elderly voters who may not carry driver's licenses and photo identification.

On Tuesday, January 4, the Secretary of State announced that enough signatures have been collected to put voter ID on the ballot in 2011. So, thanks to, among others, the Tea Parties, Jeppi Barbour and the re-incarnated Council of Conservative Citizens, Mississippi voters will get the chance to narrow the franchise once again.