/Hosemann and Gunn once supported early voting Why did they retreat during COVID-19

Hosemann and Gunn once supported early voting Why did they retreat during COVID-19

Multiple studies have shown that Mississippi did not do as well as the vast majority of states in making voting safer before the Nov. 3 general elections. For its 2020 efforts, Mississippi was given a D rating by the Brookings Institute. This institute has been tracking states’ voting behavior during the pandemic. Other voting-related groups gave Mississippi comparable or worse grades. It was obvious from the beginning that Mississippi’s Republican leadership would not expand mail-in voting options like other states. However, history showed that key politicians were keen to allow all Mississippians to vote in-person. Both in 2016 and 2017, the Mississippi House of Representatives voted with overwhelming margins to allow all Mississippians early voting at their circuit clerks offices. In 2016, the measure was passed with 117-2 and 2017 with 113-8. Gunn voted for both the early voting bills. Both years saw the death of the early voting bills in the Senate. Tate Reeves was the lieutenant governor. In 2020, however, Delbert Hosemann was elected lieutenant governor. He had been secretary of state and chief election officer for Mississippi, and had advocated in-person early voter for all Mississippians. In-person early voting was a simple way to ensure that elections are safer for people who are concerned about the coronavirus. However, this was not the case and the reason for that is unclear. Reeves, who is currently governor, could have vetoed early voting efforts. In 2016, and 2017, however, early voting was approved by the House with a margin that was much greater than the two thirds majority required to override the governor’s veto. Perhaps the Senate would have approved it with Hosemann’s support. Maybe Reeves would sign the bill. We won’t know. Hosemann did not speak in favor of early voting during the 2020 session. Hosemann was asked by legislators if there had been more done to make the election process safer. Hosemann replied, “I think they did a great job.” The state law that allows disabled people to vote early, as well as those who will be absent from their homes on Election Day. Hosemann noted that the Legislature included a new provision in the state elections law for 2020 to allow people who have been placed under quarantine by a doctor because of the coronavirus or caretakers for those impacted by the virus to vote early. However, those who want to avoid the possibility of contracting COVID-19 in crowded precincts may not be able to vote early. By the way, Secretary of State Michael Watson stated that the wearing of masks in these precincts is not required. Bill Denny (R-Jackson), was the Elections Committee chair during the two years the House passed early voting. In his 2019 reelection campaign, he was defeated and Jim Beckett (R-Bruce) was elected to the position of House Elections Chair. Beckett stated recently that he was not opposed to early in-person voter registration, but it was not possible for a consensus to be reached during 2020. He stated that support was required not only from the legislators but also from county circuit clerks and election commissioners, as well as the secretary of State. Although it may be difficult to understand why legislators were reluctant to allow early voting, the secretive process of creating the final elections bill was successful. The conference committees, where the Senate and House leaders meet to finalize a bill, must be held in open, public sessions according to legislative rules. This rule is almost always ignored. During the coronavirus pandemic there were even fewer meetings at the Capitol. Jenifer Branning (R-Philadelphia), Senate Elections Chair, stated that she would comment if a compromise was reached. This lack of transparency adds to the mystery as to why legislators, who have supported early voting in the past and refused to take it into consideration in a year that might be most critical for Mississippians, are not transparent.