Voting free & fair in Mississippi
Voting machines that cast ballots for the wrong candidate or can be sabotaged by internet hackers. Abuse of absentee voting. Voting by non-citizens or even dead people.
These allegations were among those made in the wake of the contentious 2020 Presidential election, but they are unlikely to happen in Mississippi, Lincoln County Circuit Clerk Dustin Bairfield told members of Institute for Retirement in Learning (ILR) at a brunch last month.
Bairfield pointed to key components of the Mississippi election system that assure fair and free elections:
The Mississippi Secretary of State must confirm that a new voter-registration applicant is an American citizen by cross-referencing two databases: the Mississippi Department of Public Safety’s driver’s license and identification system and the federal Systematic Alien Verification For Entitlements database, also known as SAVE.
Individuals voting at the polls or in person by absentee ballot are required to show a photo ID. Acceptable ids include a driver’s license, a photo ID issued by a branch, department or entity of the State of Mississippi; a United States passport, a government employee ID card, a firearms license, a student photo ID issued by an accredited Mississippi university, college or community/junior college; A United States military ID, tribal photo ID, any other photo ID issued by any branch, department, agency or entity of the United States government or any State government, a Mississippi Voter Identification Card. A voter may use an expired photo as long as it is an acceptable form of photo ID and not more than ten years old. The expired ID must contain the name and photograph of the voter, and have been validly issued by the federal or a state government. Exempt from the photo ID requirements are voters who cast absentee ballots by mail, fax or email, voters with religious objections to being photographed, any registered voter who resides at a state-licensed care facility and who votes in person at a polling place located in that state-licensed care facility.
Over half of the state’s voting population is already using voting machines that generate voter-verifiable paper ballots, not just an electronic vote, and are not capable of connecting to the internet. By 2024, all the Mississippi counties will be using them.
Ballots are electronically scanned, with virtually no errors occurring because poll workers and vote counters touch them.
Only voters who will be out of town, working during the election, are over 65 years old, working at polls, away at college or physically unable to go to a polling place can cast absentee ballots. Most state voters cast absentee ballots in person, but those who are temporarily away from their homes (for work or school), overseas, in the miliary, over 65 years old or temporarily or permanently physically disabled can cast mail-absentee ballots. Email absentee voting is also an option for persons who are in the military or overseas. Only about ten per cent of absentee ballots are cast by mail, fax or email.
There is no early voting in Mississippi. State and local officials, by and large, do not oppose it, but logistical and staffing requirements associated with early voting have made it impractical. Mississippi requires three poll workers at all its voting places.
A state system notifies counties when voters need to be removed from rolls because of deaths, and local election commissioners continue to be responsible for voter roll maintenance.
Bairfield noted voter registration is open through October 10 at the Lincoln County Circuit Clerk’s office or online at www.sos.ms.gov/voter-id/register. Absentee voting has begun and will continue until the election in November, he said.