/Mississippians push to engage voters ahead of Oct 5 registration deadline

Mississippians push to engage voters ahead of Oct 5 registration deadline

Wilson and Ricky Fields created the club because there was an election this school year. This is so that students and their communities can be better informed about voting. “Did my high school know anything about voter education and voting? Why not? We didn’t have these conversations. Wilson spoke over Zoom. “This is not partisan… because voting affects everyone. We want everyone to be able to access that.” Clarksdale students were able to organize a community-wide voter registration drive Sept. 26 thanks to the teachers’ efforts. Marchellos Scott (17 years old) from Clarksdale stated that the goal was to “bring in the change” and make sure everyone understands how vital it is for our future. Scott said, “When it comes down to voting, people don’t know or my peers don’t know how large an impact it makes and how significant it is.” “But if they don’t fully inform themselves on those (candidates), then how can we accommodate our needs?” READ MORE. Mississippi Today Voter Guide. With the Oct. 5 deadline for voter registration, communities across Mississippi are looking for ways to engage current and prospective voters. Zack Wallace, Hinds County circuit clerk, hosted a safer and more socially distant absentee program during the week of September 21. The event featured food vendors, music and information tables about absentee voting and the election process. Many people are still confused about the pandemic and mail-in ballots. Wallace spoke to Mississippi Today by phone on September 16. Mississippi is one of the few states that does not permit people to vote in person or early by mail. Only people over 65, disabled persons, and those who are away from their homes on Election Day are exempted. The Mississippi Supreme Court recently ruled that people who have a pre-existing condition that puts them at higher risk of COVID-19 cannot vote early if they are not eligible. Local circuit clerks will now have to decide who can and cannot vote early. Jarvis Dortch (executive director of the ACLU Mississippi affiliate) stated that “with the pandemic we don’t understand what it’s going to look like in 30 to 40 days… people having to wait for long times, and if there’s major outbreaks, that’s an issue.” “Fear that there may be precincts changed.” Conor Dowling from the University of Mississippi is an associate professor of American politics. He said that the greater the confusion, the higher the chances of low voter turnout. The quicker cases in court are resolved, the better. In an email, he stated that accurate and consistent information could be distributed to voters between now and Election Day. N’Spire Walker, an activist and school teacher, stated that while it is more difficult to reach voters in the coronavirus pandemic, this has not stopped community members from taking action. “That’s why they go to their homes. Walker stated that we can go up to them and catch them as they leave the house. Walker said that the main people who need to vote are the ones that you can go to or meet where they are going. Walker is a middle-school science teacher and the founder of Dream Team of the South (a Meridian-based non-profit). At first, she focused her efforts on registering voters. Walker soon discovered that some voters were not active. Others weren’t sure how to verify their status. She stated that her main concern is to make sure people who believe they are registered are active, and for those who think they are registered to take action. Voter registration drives are often successful, according to Thessalia Merivaki (assistant professor in American politics at Mississippi State University). She said that incorrect information on registration forms or voters not being aware of their rights and options could hinder the process. Outreach and education can help to resolve this problem. Voter education is crucial to this process. Merivaki said that if it isn’t done, particularly for high school and college voters, it can exacerbate inequalities in access to information. She said that a student who comes from a less likely household to vote is more likely to not cast a ballot than a student from a family with civically engaged members. Merivaki stated that “This is another population we don’t know much about and it’s very difficult to reach.” If we follow this path to college, we can understand why so many students are unfamiliar with the process. “First-time voters are overwhelmed when they start college.” Clarksdale High School students, and others, remain motivated by exercising their right to vote despite the challenges presented during this election cycle. Fields stated that by educating students and inviting them along, they could also bring their parents, peers, and any other family members who may not understand (the process of voting). “There are people my age who don’t understand how to vote.” Registration deadline is Oct. 5. Election Day is November 3. Mississippi Today’s voter guide provides more information about the candidates and the voting process. Editor’s Note: This story was updated to reflect the fact that the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled on the state’s absentee voter law.