/Mississippians, unlike some states, shouldn’t have to wait long to know their election results

Mississippians, unlike some states, shouldn’t have to wait long to know their election results

Despite warnings from national pundits that it might be difficult to determine who will win the presidential election or other races on election night due to the large number of voters voting by mail, many Mississippi election officials believe that this will not be true for the state’s elections. Mississippians will vote Tuesday in several elections, including the presidential, a U.S. Senate and three U.S. House positions, as well as a few state Supreme Court posts. Also on the statewide ballot will be questions about legalizing medical marijuana, adopting new state flags and eliminating a Jim Crow-era provision that would prevent a candidate for the state from being seated even if they win a majority of votes. State Sen. David Blount (D-Jackson), who used to work in the secretary office of the state, said that unless elections are “super, SUPER, super close”, the results of those contests should be known by the night of November 3. When asked when the results of the election might be known, Zack Wallace, Hinds County Circuit Clerk, stated that “it all depends” on whether Mississippi has close elections. “Do you foresee the outcome of the election on Nov. 3?” Gwen Wilks, Forrest County Circuit Clerk, said that she would answer “yes” right now. “But it all depends on many things.” The Mississippi Legislature made a change to the law this summer that could delay results in elections with razor-thin margins. Mail-in ballots must be received at the circuit clerk’s office by Monday prior to the election under the old law. The law has been changed to allow the ballots to arrive at the circuit clerk’s office within five working days. This means that election results may be coming in over a longer period of time. Circuit Clerk Michael Kelley from Prentiss county said that “that shouldn’t be that many votes.” Kelley said, “I am optimistic we will have results a bit quicker this year.” Kelley believes that results will be counted quicker because the law has been amended this year so that election officials can open absentee envelopes immediately and prepare them for counting at the circuit clerks offices. In the past, absentee votes had to be brought in their envelopes to their home precinct. There, the ballot would then be opened and counted after the polls closed. Kelley stated that opening the ballots earlier and tabulating them at circuit clerks’ offices will speed the process. However, a problem that could slow down the process of getting results in close elections is Secretary of State Michael Watson’s new rule. This requires election officials to notify voters whose absentee votes are rejected due to issues with their signatures. This would allow voters more time to rectify the problems. Watson stated that he doesn’t believe that the change will have much impact on the time when results are announced. Watson said that he believes we will have an idea of the results on election night. The actual voting process, not the counting of votes, could make Election Day slow. Long lines could form at the precincts due to high turnout and safety precautions taken by COVID-19. Social distancing and measures to disinfect voting machines and other equipment at polling places could slow down the process. Mississippi is the only state that does not allow voters to vote early in order to avoid overcrowding precincts during the pandemic. Officials claim that there has been an “important” increase in absentee voting despite the state’s restrictive early voting system. The office of the Secretary of State reported that there had been more than 190,000. In addition to the 164.101 absentee ballots already returned by voters, this number was higher than at any time in 2016. This is compared to 110,812 ballots requested in the entire 2016 early voting period. This large absence could indicate a record turnout this year, despite the COVID-19 climate and the hurricane that devastated south Mississippi last week. Mississippi had a previous record turnout in 2012 when 1,285,584 voters voted in the contest in which Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama. Obama won the election with 562,949 votes, the most ever for a Democrat and 43.8% of the vote. This was the largest turnout since 1976 when Democrat Jimmy Carter won the state with 49.6%. Carter was the last Democratic presidential candidate to win Mississippi. These are numbers you can sleep on as Tuesday’s election draws near. People who don’t want to stay up late on Tuesday night will most likely find out the results of Mississippi’s election results the next morning.