Voter Registration Rises Sharply - WLBT.com - Jackson, MS

Jackson 10/09/08

Voter Registration Rises Sharply

By Monica Hernandez
monica@wlbt.net 

An historic election is sparking tremendous voter enthusiasm, according to election officials. In fact, voter registration in Mississippi has increased by over 162,000 this year-- and counting.

The number is expected to rise because officials are still working to enter registrants who met the October 4th deadline into the system.

If you walk into any circuit clerk's office in the state of Mississippi, you can bet you'll see boxes filled with thousands of voter registration forms, waiting to be processed.

Kimberly Gibson-Richards is a deputy circuit clerk for Hinds County. She said everyone in the office has been working overtime to get through this year's overwhelming number of registrants.

"It's been the busiest year. It really has. Ooh, it's just so many of them coming in, the new registered voters-- you wouldn't believe it!" exclaimed Gibson-Richards.

Secretary of State Delbert Hoseman said a growing number of people are becoming enthusiastic about voting because the country is at a turning point.

"Historically, young people... have not voted. But now, we're seeing those people become energized about their right to vote," said Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann.

Hosemann adds that people from all walks of life, representing a range of ages, are registering to vote for the first time.

"We had [someone] from the coast who was 93, registering for the first time to vote, and I think we are seeing that across the board," said Hosemann.

With so many new voters, will we see voter fraud? According to officials, it's too early to tell.

"There are applications you can't verify as far as driver's license or social security numbers," said Connie Cochran, of the Hinds County Election Commission. "But the first-time mail-in voters have to show ID at the precinct, so that's a check and balance."

Although officials aren't sure if we'll experience voter fraud, they say we'll definitely experience long lines during what's expected to be a record turnout on election day. Hinds County officials are preparing with extra poll workers.

"We're trying to get everything as good as we can get it, but even so, there are going to be lines out there," said Cochran. 

"If you think you might be impatient, think how difficult it was to vote if you were in Afghanistan, and I think maybe you'll give us another 5 or 10 minutes to get you through the polling place," said Hosemann, who recently returned from the Middle East, where Hosemann and other secretaries of state joined together to encourage overseas servicemen to vote.

Election officials are asking registrants to be patient; voter cards are being sent out as quickly as possible. And officials promise that everyone who met the registration deadline will be entered into the system before the election.

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