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Analysis: Mississippi early voting needs veto-proof support

Mississippi's 65th governor Tate Reeves | Source: Tate Reeves/Facebook

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves is making clear, even before the start of the 2021 legislative session, that he opposes any big changes in the way the state conducts elections.

Posted: Dec 27, 2020 8:26 PM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves is making clear, even before the start of the 2021 legislative session, that he opposes any big changes in the way the state conducts elections.

About 1.3 million Mississippi residents voted in the 2020 presidential race, and the vast majority cast their ballots on Election Day. Republican Secretary of State Michael Watson said the state issued about 248,000 absentee ballots. Some people voted absentee by mail, and some cast absentee ballots in-person at circuit clerk's offices. Watson said absentee voting in 2020 was roughly double what it was during the 2016 presidential election.

In many places around Mississippi, people stood in long lines outside and inside precincts. The Republican governor said that he and his wife, Elee, stood in line more than an hour at a precinct near the Governor's Mansion in downtown Jackson — and he said he was OK with that.

“I believe in the institution of Election Day, and I have said that from the beginning," Reeves told reporters Dec. 14 at the Capitol, adding that he opposes expansion of mail-in voting.

Many states allow people to cast a ballot days or weeks in advance, at their convenience. That list includes Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee and Georgia. Efforts to enact early voting in Mississippi have hit a wall, so far.

With Reeves staking out his preference for the tradition of Election Day, singular, rather than Election Days, plural, any change would have to be made by a veto-proof margin with more than two-thirds support in the state House and Senate. Republicans control both chambers. For enough of them to go against the governor's wishes, they would need strong support from people back home. Republican lawmakers also would have to be convinced that early voting would help Republicans at least as much, if not more, than it would help Democrats.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Mississippi is one of the 16 states that require people to have an excuse to cast an absentee ballot. In Mississippi, being out of town on Election Day because of work or school is an acceptable excuse. Wanting to avoid standing in line near other people during a pandemic is not.

Mississippi also allows absentee voting by anyone 65 or older or by anyone who has a permanent or temporary physical disability. Legislators made a temporary revision that expires at the end of 2020, allowing absentee voting by any person under a physician-imposed quarantine because of COVID-19 or by any person caring for a dependent who was under a such a quarantine.

Mississippi cities have elections for mayor and other officials in 2021, with party primaries in April and the general election in June. As the pandemic continues, it's unclear whether legislators will consider extending the absentee voting provisions tied to COVID-19 quarantine.

Democratic state Sen. David Blount of Jackson has filed bills for a number of years to create no-excuse early voting in Mississippi. He said he will do so again in 2021 because he believes legislators should do all they can to make it easier for people to vote in a secure manner.

“Most states already have it, most people want it and it's completely secure,” Blount told The Associated Press last week. “You have to walk in the courthouse past the sheriff's deputy, you work with a trained circuit clerk's staff person and you show your ID.”

Blount said such a system would have “zero potential for fraud.” As for needing a veto-proof margin, Blount said he hopes most legislators would see early voting is what their constituents want.

“Do we want more people to vote, or not? Do we want shorter lines on Election Day, or not?” Blount said. “Early voting helps with both of those questions.”

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 498560

Reported Deaths: 9939
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34150535
DeSoto31916399
Hinds31878624
Jackson24352379
Rankin21928388
Lee15450235
Madison14547279
Jones13789241
Forrest13428250
Lauderdale11944315
Lowndes10966185
Lamar10491135
Pearl River9454237
Lafayette8462138
Hancock7703126
Washington7371157
Oktibbeha7118130
Monroe6740174
Warren6656176
Pontotoc6620102
Neshoba6613206
Panola6466131
Marshall6398132
Bolivar6268146
Union596794
Pike5794152
Alcorn5646101
Lincoln5421134
George494979
Scott471198
Tippah466081
Prentiss464881
Leflore4631144
Itawamba4605105
Adams4577119
Tate4553109
Copiah445692
Simpson4423116
Yazoo440386
Wayne438572
Covington427894
Marion4222107
Sunflower4217104
Coahoma4127104
Leake407687
Newton381079
Grenada3700108
Stone358764
Tishomingo358091
Attala330589
Jasper328565
Winston313491
Clay306775
Chickasaw297867
Clarke290694
Calhoun278145
Holmes267287
Smith262450
Yalobusha232847
Tallahatchie225851
Walthall217763
Greene216048
Lawrence211440
Perry204855
Amite204055
Webster201845
Noxubee185940
Montgomery179356
Jefferson Davis170942
Carroll168238
Tunica159039
Benton147538
Kemper141341
Choctaw133026
Claiborne131637
Humphreys129038
Franklin119128
Quitman106328
Wilkinson104539
Jefferson94234
Sharkey64020
Issaquena1937
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 814363

Reported Deaths: 15179
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1141131910
Mobile722941323
Madison52048686
Shelby37315341
Baldwin37098540
Tuscaloosa34973599
Montgomery33996725
Lee23158240
Calhoun22168470
Morgan20675372
Etowah19770496
Marshall18258300
Houston17314405
St. Clair15924337
Cullman15333290
Limestone15239198
Elmore15095284
Lauderdale14163294
Talladega13728272
DeKalb12575259
Walker11096366
Blount10104174
Autauga9904146
Jackson9795180
Coffee9182189
Dale8866181
Colbert8794200
Tallapoosa7045195
Escambia6747127
Covington6688179
Chilton6595160
Russell626358
Franklin5936105
Chambers5562142
Marion4960126
Dallas4897199
Clarke473482
Pike4721105
Geneva4564126
Winston4478101
Lawrence4269117
Bibb421786
Barbour356075
Marengo334189
Monroe330662
Randolph327763
Butler324894
Pickens314082
Henry311265
Hale309487
Cherokee300557
Fayette291079
Washington251151
Cleburne247058
Crenshaw243775
Clay240867
Macon230762
Lamar218146
Conecuh185752
Coosa179038
Lowndes174161
Wilcox167838
Bullock151744
Perry138040
Sumter131138
Greene125844
Choctaw87027
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