Miss. Secretary of State: Vote by mail ‘impossible’ for state

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Updated: Aug. 17, 2020 at 7:32 PM CDT
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - People across the country are preparing to vote this fall and many are concerned about voting during the pandemic. Nine states and Washington D.C. have adopted a vote-by-mail system that the Mississippi Secretary of State says isn’t possible for the Magnolia State.

Secretary of State Michael Watson says other states that are planning to vote completely by mail had time to prepare.

“Washington, for instance, took five years to implement their vote-by-mail election,” Watson said. “So when people say, ‘Hey look, we got to jump to it and issue vote by mail by November,’ logistically, it would be impossible.”

In these states, registered voters will be mailed a ballot without having to request one. Watson describes why Mississippi isn’t ready to take that step.

“I talked to the Secretary of State in Washington and she said, ‘Michael, look, if you’re not at 60% or more already vote by mail, it would be impossible to get there by November.’ Mississippi is at about 3.5%, so we’re just one of those states that couldn’t get it done,” Watson said.

Watson says his office asked the legislature to allow Mississippians concerned about COVID-19 to vote absentee, and the legislature created two options.

“The first one being if you’re under a physician’s ordered quarantine due to COVID-19, you would be able to vote in-person at the clerk’s office or by mail,” Watson said. “The second one is if you are caring for a dependent who was under quarantine due to physician’s orders, you too could then vote at the clerk’s office absentee or by mail. So those are the only two specific COVID related excuses that the legislature addressed.”

People in Mississippi can vote absentee by mail if they meet these COVID requirements or other absentee situations such as seniors over the age of 65, college students living at school or military personnel overseas. Absentee mail ballots must be received within five days of election day to be counted.

Anyone who needs to vote absentee can do so by voting in person at their local election office from Sept. 21 through the Saturday before the election.

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