"It is my understanding that the state has presented H.B. 921 to the U.S. Department of Justice for pre-clearance," Simmons explained. "The DOJ, in return, has not responded to the motion so existing law still prevails."
Simmons said that what that means is that voters will not have to provide a form of identification when hitting the polls for the presidential election on Tuesday.
Bolivar County Circuit Clerk Marilyn Kelly said, "Mississippi has always required first-time registrants who failed to register with the circuit clerk's office to show picture identification at the polls. These people will be the only ones who are required by law to show a picture ID on Tuesday.
Bryant said Wednesday he thinks it would be a good idea for people in the state to voluntarily show identification when they vote, even though the law does not require it.
"If you have to show an ID to buy a pack of cigarettes or to buy alcohol, which you should, then certainly you ought to have to present an ID to vote, so that we are certain that you're not stealing someone else's liberty and their chance to vote," Gov. Phil Bryant said.
Bryant's comments came in response to a question from The Associated Press after he spoke at the Mississippi Economic Council's Hobnob, a social gathering for business people and politicians.
Since then, those remarks have been the topic of much criticism.
"As chairman of the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus, I would like to express my grave disappointment with statements made by Gov. Phil Bryant urging the showing of photo identification for voting in the upcoming presidential election," said Sen. Kenneth Wayne Jones. "As elected officials, we are responsible for providing clear, concise and accurate information to our constituents, not our opinions.
"This type of misleading information coming from the governor of our great state is confusing and intimidating to voters in an already fragile process. We should all follow the law, and right now, only first time voters who registered by mail will have to show ID because of federal law," Jones continued. "As members of the legislature, let's keep our information accurate and try to keep our opinions to ourselves. Mississippians deserve the best we can give."
Simmons agreed residents of Mississippi need to have a clear understanding of the voting laws that are still in place.
Last November 62 percent of Mississippi voters passed Initiative 27 and the state legislature proposed and passed House Bill 921.
The bill requires voters to present identification before voting; and requires the secretary of state to negotiate a memorandum of understanding between the Mississippi Department of Public Safety and the registrar of each county for the purpose of providing a Mississippi Voter Identification Card.
Bryant signed it on May 17.
However before the bill could be put into action, the U.S. Department of Justice had to approve the measure.
"I, and many of my peers, have been receiving a number of calls and we just want to make sure that everyone understands that ID will not be needed at the polls this year," Simmons said.
In a recent decision the justice department rejected similar laws in South Carolina and Texas, but according to the National Council of State Legislatures, four states currently have photo identification requirements as strict as the one Mississippi would enact.
The department of justice in early October asked Mississippi officials for more information about the proposed law, including facts that might prove an ID law wouldn't discriminate against minority citizens.
Simmons added that anyone who might experience any harassment or be asked to show identification should contact their county election commissioner, the county Circuit Clerk's office or his office at (601)359-3237.