Representative McCray has filed a petition with the Secretary of State’s office promote early voting in Mississippi.
State Representative Hester McCray (D-HD 40) said she first began hearing constituents complain about lack of early voting when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. She received calls from locals asking why their close neighbors to the North in Memphis were able to vote early during the pandemic but they were not.
While there were several pieces of legislation offered during the 2021 session that would have expanded early voting, none of them were successful in getting passed.
“I feel like a lot of Mississippians are tired of only being able to vote on that Tuesday,” said McCray.
The freshman Representative said since legislation did not get the job done, this was the next move.
It could take up to 2 years for an initiative to be placed on the ballot with gathering signatures from each Congressional District. Currently, the Mississippi constitution calls for collecting signatures from qualified electors in five Congressional Districts even though the state only has four Congressional members following the 2000 Census.
The petition that was submitted to the Secretary of State’s office would amend Article 12 and add Section 244B which would give no less than 10 business days of early voting between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. This would apply for every election and would include the two Saturday’s before an Election Day.
Each Circuit Clerk’s office would be responsible for qualifying early voting precincts. Those precincts would be decided based on registered voters in a county, one poling location per 30,000 registered voters. For a municipality, they would operate on one polling location per 10,000 registered voters. This would be dependent upon to the most recent Census data.
The initiative would require ballot totals be saved using a system in which they can be recounted for election certification and audit. The votes must be added to the Election Day results prior to 7:00 p.m. on Election Day.
Such a change would obviously cost the state and Secretary of State’s office additional dollars to implement. The petition accounts for four staff persons per voting precinct for those additional 10 days, noting that those persons would be paid out of state sales tax revenue or in another way the Legislature determined. It is estimated that cost would total $500 per day for each additional city or county precinct, and $3,000 for additional hours in the Clerk’s office on Saturdays.
Lawmakers did provide for absentee voting to be expanded before the 2020 General Election, allowing for a wider range of individuals in order to keep the public safe during the pandemic.
The passage of HB 1521 allowed for individuals who were instructed by a healthcare provider to stay home to vote absentee. It also applied to those who were caregivers for those individuals.
The bill also made that absentee vote final, and a vote on the Election Day would not be accepted. However, it did not allow for those individuals to vote by mail. Those voters were still required to visit the circuit clerk to present their ballot.
All absentee ballots received by mail had to be postmarked by the day of the election and were to be received up to five days after. In Mississippi, a person has 30 days to vote absentee prior to an election.
Read the petition filed with the Secretary of State’s office: