BREAKING NEWS Finally Feeling Like Fall Full Story

Mississippi seeks to dismiss lawsuit on elections amid COVID

Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson

Top officials in Mississippi are asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit that seeks to remove some limitations from the state’s absentee voting process amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Posted: Sep 28, 2020 3:24 PM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Top officials in Mississippi are asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit that seeks to remove some limitations from the state's absentee voting process amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Secretary of State Michael Watson and Attorney General Lynn Fitch filed court papers Friday, responding to voting-rights groups that represent Mississippi residents with health conditions that could make in-person voting risky because of COVID-19.


Attorney General Lynn Fitch | Source: Mississippi Office of the Attorney General

Watson and Fitch did not deny that the pandemic is causing health risks. But the two Republicans repeatedly denied other assertions made by attorneys from the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

Mississippi requires absentee ballot applications to be notarized. The state also requires most people to provide an excuse to vote absentee, such as being out of town on Election Day.

The plaintiffs are asking a judge to block those two requirements, saying those are unconstitutional. They are also asking a judge to provide a clear process for what happens when election officials say they see inconsistencies in a voter’s signature.

“Defendants admit only that Mississippi state laws establishing who is eligible to vote by absentee ballot speak for themselves,” wrote a state attorney representing Watson and Fitch.

The lawsuit was filed in August on behalf of three Mississippi residents, the League of Women Voters of Mississippi and the Mississippi State Conference of the NAACP. It says Mississippi election laws could force people to choose between their health and their constitutional right to vote. It also says Watson and Fitch “have failed to take necessary steps to protect Mississippi voters’ fundamental right to vote despite the public health risks of voting in person during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Mississippi does not allow widespread early voting. Instead, state law says absentee voting is available to anyone 65 or older, or to voters of any age who are permanently disabled or will be out of their home county on Election Day. People who have to work on Election Day when the polls are open also are allowed to vote absentee.

Legislators tweaked the law this year with provisions that expire at the end of 2020. Those allow absentee voting by someone with a temporary or permanent disability that may include “a physician-imposed quarantine due to COVID-19” or by a person who is “caring for a dependent that is under a physician-imposed quarantine due to COVID-19.”

The lawsuit in federal court is similar to one filed in state court by the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi and the Mississippi Center for Justice, which was also brought against Watson.

The state court lawsuit says Mississippi’s absentee voting law is confusing and could be applied inconsistently during the pandemic. A judge issued a statewide declaration Sept. 2 that would allow people to vote absentee if they have health conditions that could put them in extra danger because of COVID-19. The Mississippi Supreme Court reversed that decision Sept. 18, ruling that: "Having a preexisting condition that puts a voter at a higher risk does not automatically create a temporary disability for absentee-voting purposes."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 497790

Reported Deaths: 9917
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34102530
DeSoto31839398
Hinds31837622
Jackson24314377
Rankin21881388
Lee15427234
Madison14525279
Jones13772241
Forrest13412250
Lauderdale11937314
Lowndes10934185
Lamar10470135
Pearl River9431237
Lafayette8454138
Hancock7697126
Washington7365156
Oktibbeha7111129
Monroe6727174
Warren6642176
Pontotoc6609101
Neshoba6606205
Panola6460131
Marshall6386132
Bolivar6266145
Union596094
Pike5784152
Alcorn5633101
Lincoln5417134
George491879
Scott470998
Tippah465381
Prentiss464181
Leflore4627143
Itawamba4596104
Adams4570119
Tate4546109
Copiah445191
Simpson4421116
Wayne438572
Yazoo438586
Covington427394
Marion4216107
Sunflower4215104
Coahoma4115104
Leake407787
Newton380879
Grenada3692108
Stone358464
Tishomingo356391
Attala330289
Jasper328265
Winston313191
Clay306375
Chickasaw296767
Clarke290694
Calhoun277945
Holmes266987
Smith262550
Yalobusha232647
Tallahatchie225251
Walthall217763
Greene215548
Lawrence211140
Perry204755
Amite203954
Webster201645
Noxubee185340
Montgomery179056
Jefferson Davis170642
Carroll167438
Tunica158639
Benton147438
Kemper141241
Choctaw133026
Claiborne131237
Humphreys129038
Franklin119128
Quitman106227
Wilkinson104539
Jefferson94234
Sharkey64020
Issaquena1937
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 813481

Reported Deaths: 15179
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1139971910
Mobile722271323
Madison51970686
Shelby37279341
Baldwin37069540
Tuscaloosa34934599
Montgomery33953725
Lee23142240
Calhoun22142470
Morgan20639372
Etowah19758496
Marshall18245300
Houston17302405
St. Clair15912337
Cullman15306290
Limestone15202198
Elmore15075284
Lauderdale14143294
Talladega13715272
DeKalb12569259
Walker11085366
Blount10094174
Autauga9893146
Jackson9789180
Coffee9182189
Dale8859181
Colbert8789200
Tallapoosa7044195
Escambia6732127
Covington6682179
Chilton6587160
Russell625958
Franklin5930105
Chambers5559142
Marion4955126
Dallas4882199
Clarke472782
Pike4719105
Geneva4564126
Winston4473101
Lawrence4264117
Bibb421686
Barbour355475
Marengo334089
Monroe330262
Randolph327063
Butler324794
Pickens313882
Henry310965
Hale309187
Cherokee299957
Fayette290679
Washington250951
Cleburne246958
Crenshaw243575
Clay240367
Macon230562
Lamar215846
Conecuh185652
Coosa178538
Lowndes173761
Wilcox167438
Bullock151744
Perry138040
Sumter131038
Greene125544
Choctaw86927
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
44° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 40°
Columbus
Clear
44° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 44°
Oxford
Clear
39° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 39°
Starkville
Clear
43° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 43°
A cold front passing through our area overnight will bring into our area some of the coolest temperatures of the season so far. We will see most of the highs this weekend only in the upper 60s to lower 70s. While overnight lows will drop off down into the 40s Saturday night.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather