/Legislators could grapple with expanded early voting when session resumes

Legislators could grapple with expanded early voting when session resumes

Ironically, Vos was one of the officials who argued that the coronavirus pandemic shouldn’t be used as a reason for delay or expansion of mail-in voting in Wisconsin to ensure the safety and security of voters. The video could be a sign that the November general elections are near for Mississippians. Everyone hopes that the country and the state will return to some normalcy by November and that any concerns over the coronavirus will have subsided. Mississippians may face more voting challenges than those in other states if they don’t. Mississippi has some of most restrictive laws regarding absentee and early voting. The Legislature will return from its coronavirus-forced recess in May. Sen. David Blount (D-Jackson) hopes that lawmakers will consider and pass a proposal to expand early voting options. This would be especially important during an emergency situation such as a pandemic. Blount recently stated that “Nobody knows what November will look like.” “Everything could be okay. That would be wonderful, but we must listen to the experts in health care. We need safety precautions to ensure that everyone can vote and vote safely if things go against the grain.” Current Lt. Governor. Delbert Hosemann briefly supported no-excuse online voter registration and early voting. Hosemann supported the concepts based upon the recommendations of the 2014 bi-partisan elections task team. The Republican legislative leadership blocked the proposals and Hosemann’s support declined. Hosemann, now the Senate’s president, suggested recently that it might be time for a reexamination. Hosemann stated that “significant cybersecurity concerns and other concerns in the recent years have caused us to exercise caution when changing absentee laws or allowing for online voter registration.” “The COVID-19 crisis is forcing us to reexamine these laws and other statutes that may need to change or be updated.” Gov. Tate Reeves has already dealt with tornadoes, the coronavirus and other crises in his three months of office. He indicated that November is not on his priority list. Reeves stated, “As the summer turns into the fall,” that he would do all he could to ensure every Mississippian has the chance to vote. Similar sentiments were echoed by Philip Gunn (R-Clinton). Gunn stated that while that should be considered at the right time, the current focus is on getting over the health crisis and addressing the needs Mississippians who were affected by the Easter Sunday hurricanes that decimated parts of the state. If the expansion of early voter registration is not addressed in the 2020 session that resumes, the governor will have to call an emergency session to allow early voting to be expanded. Blount said, “None of the parties knows what November will bring.” Blount stated that there was a Senate bill on absentee voting issues. He believes it could be amended by the session to address the emergency. The bill, as it stands now, makes changes to the state’s absentee voting law in order to prevent voters who have voted early from changing their mind and voting on election day. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSLA), Mississippi is one of nine states that does not allow any form of no-excuse, early voting. Represent Us, a national non profit that promotes mail-in voter registration, says Mississippi is among eight states that have not taken any temporary measures to allow mail-in vote. The latest state to take such action is Alabama, which is also in the neighboring states. Mississippi’s current law allows people to vote early if they are not in their home state on election day. This includes the disabled, elderly, and some other groups. Blount suggested that this should be extended at the very least in the event of an emergency such as a pandemic. Blount suggested that there should be more places for in-person early voting. In-person early voting is currently only allowed in local circuit clerks offices. It is not available to older voters, disabled people, and those who are away from their homes on election day. Republican Secretary of State Michael Watson said that expanding early voting due to the pandemic should be left up to the Legislature. He was a strong opponent of no-excuse voting in his election campaign. He said, “We’ve been looking at the best approach for November and our office has sought input from (local) election commissioners and circuit clerks.” “We are a bottom-up state. Our elections are handled at the local level. Watson noted that the governor had postponed a Republican race for the U.S. House District 2, which was due to be held in March, and that he has rescheduled a state House vote to fill the vacant seat. Reeves stated that the health and well-being for all Mississippians should and will always be our highest priority in postponing March 30’s special House election. We are closer than ever to ending this epidemic, so holding an election at this moment would put the health and safety of our voters and poll workers at risk. Protecting our rights as Americans to free and fair elections is important, but it must not be at the cost of the safety and health of our citizens. Stay at home and stay healthy.”