Submitted by Michael Watson
Secretary of State Watson clears up misleading information in recent Clarion Ledger article on voting in Mississippi.
While maybe well-intentioned, a recent Clarion Ledger article on voting in Mississippi provided misleading information on the different avenues one can take to cast his or her ballot. One of the headers even noted “If you can’t vote in person on Election Day, you may not be able to vote.” It went on to outline Mississippi does not have early voting or online voter registration and continued to imply in-person voting on Election Day as the only opportunity to vote outside of naming a few categories of voters eligible to vote by mail.
I do not take lightly my duties as Mississippi’s Chief Elections Officer, so I want to take a moment to provide the facts and remind Mississippians their election information should be acquired from trusted sources such as circuit clerks, election commissioners, and the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office.
First, the article failed to mention all of the ways a person, who may not be able to make it to his or her precinct on Election Day, can vote. While Mississippi law only allows four reasons to vote by mail, there are eight reasons for in-person absentee voting. Whether or not the author intentionally left off the other avenues for absentee voting, it is important to note this kind of misleading information leads to voter confusion and creates unnecessary obstacles for Mississippi voters.
Additionally, the article cited “stringent laws like voter ID” when, in fact, Mississippi’s voter identification law allows several types of ID to be presented on Election Day (10 to be exact), including broad categories such as any government issued photo ID. Access to a free voter identification card is also available through the Secretary of State’s Office if a voter does not have an acceptable form of ID. As of today, our office has issued 8,835 of these cards.
We know there is more work to be done with election laws in our state. My team and I are continuously reviewing ways we can work with the state legislature to make it easier for all Mississippians to vote. But remember, we must balance these efforts with ensuring we maintain the integrity of the elections process. Our goal remains to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat. As always, we are willing to come to the table to have these tough and nuanced discussions.
In closing, I again urge Mississippians not to get caught up in biased media, whether intentional or unintentional, but to seek trusted information from your state and local officials. For elections information, visit YallVote.ms, call our Elections Hotline at 1-800-829-6786, or email [email protected].
Submitted by Michael Watson. He is the Secretary of State for Mississippi.