Secretary of State Michael Watson called the November 3rd General Election a “fantastic election,” at least for Mississippi. He credited that to the team of Circuit Clerks and poll workers across the state who took on the task in unprecedented times.
This year, more Mississippians than ever were able to vote early through absentee. Allowances were made for those who were at a higher risk for COVID-19 or who had been ordered by a physician to quarantine because they were positive.
“Early on in the process, our team sat down and said lets hope this is in our rear view mirror but if it’s not lets make plans for it [COVID-19]. Our whole approach to it was allow in person absentee voting that was under an executive order or state of emergency issued by the President or Governor,” said Watson.
The Secretary said in-person voting at the circuit clerks offices is the second safest way to cast your vote, the first being in-person at the polls on election day. The Legislature went a different route and allowed for those who had been diagnosed with COVID or who had been taking care of someone diagnosed with the virus to vote absentee.
Watson said making these allowanced under guidelines help ensure the integrity of the voting process in the state.
However, that is not the case for everyone. The results in several states are currently being challenged by the Trump campaign. Watson said he believes the conversation surrounding election fraud and will continue especially if some of those states in question show proof of it once it is all said and done.
Some have wondered why Mississippi does not allow more absentee voting or mail-in voting, even during years without a pandemic. Watson said it’s a policy and implementation problem.
Watson explained that there is a key difference between absentee voting and mail-in voting. For states that allow mail-in voting, ballots are sent to the address of anyone on the voting rolls. Watson said this element alone can cause voter fraud because there is no way to verify that the person living at that address is actually receiving that ballot.
In Mississippi, there are roughly six counties that have over 107% of registered voters on the voting rolls. Watson said that is simply impossible, and that is where you can see some fraud. These numbers can be due to deaths or relocations that have not been changed in the system.
“You talk about the policy side, it’s a bad piece when you can’t have clean voting rolls to start with,” said Watson. “Not only was it a policy piece that I disagreed with but the implementation, as well.”
He said he spoke to Secretary Kim Wyman from Washington, who said implementing a vote by mail program took them nearly five years. Several states in question from the 2020 General Election attempted to make it available in just one year.
As of Tuesday, November 17th, there were still five counties in Mississippi that had not reported their final vote totals. The Secretary of State’s office has 30 days from the day of an election to certify results.
Watson said it was a true team approach making the polls safe for people to go and vote all the way from the Capitol to MEMA to the National Guard helping disperse PPE.