JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The November 3rd election is seven weeks away and some voters have questions about everything from the integrity of the election process from making sure their vote counts, to concerns about COVID-19.
In a special report, we talked exclusively with Secretary of State Michael Watson and several county leaders. Their message to voters: The election will be safe and every eligible voter should cast a ballot.
One of the most asked questions this election season is about absentee ballots.
Secretary of State Michael Watson said, “I think people should be aware of the reasons, obviously, that they can absentee vote. But also, and I want to drive this point home, we’ve talked about how this is going to be the safest and cleanest elections in Mississippi’s history because of the detail that we have put into our plans dealing with precincts.”
At least two lawsuits have been filed on absentee voting in Mississippi. Several groups argue voters should not have to choose between their health and the candidates of their choice.
Watson said, “If you are, by the law, if you are under a doctor’s orders to quarantine at home due to COVID-19 or if you are preparing or taking care of a dependent who is under a doctor’s order to quarantine due to COVID-19, you are by law, again, you can vote absentee.”
We talked with the Circuit Clerks in Hinds and Madison County and the Chair of the Election Commission for Rankin County. They want to make sure voters are informed and ready to cast ballots November 3rd.
“One of the biggest issues that I think people should be aware of is just the false information that’s out there, you know? The misinformation about where you can vote, when you can vote, how many times you can vote. So its important for us to focus on making sure they have accurate information”, Watson said.
Anita Wray, Madison County Circuit Clerk, said, “The concerns that I have are going to be the long lines and making sure that we can get everybody in here and they’re comfortable, you know? Wanting people just to be patient. That’s my concern. If we’ll just, the citizens of Madison County, will just be patient and everybody’s gonna get to vote and everybody’s vote will count.”
Tonya Rivers, Rankin County Election Commission said, “Expect very long lines. In addition to the interest for the presidential race, there’s also the three referendums that are on there and most people don’t read that in advance and they really should. You should really do your homework and not just read it and know what it’s about but read how to vote it. Because there is a two part vote on one of the referendums.”
Zack Wallace, Hinds County Circuit Clerk, said, “The most important thing that voters can do to prepare for election day is to update and verify their registration today.”
On security, the Secretary of State and county leaders say every precaution has been taken and there is no reason for voters to be apprehensive.
Watson said, “I think we’ve done a good job as a team with our Circuit Clerks, with our Commissioners, with our office of working together and making sure we don’t see any chinks in the armor. Another thing that we have done is talked to the National Guard to make sure they can do a pen test, a penetration test on our system again to make sure people are not able to hack it, or get to the information that’s important for voters.”
There are also some important dates for voters. September 21st absentee ballots will be available. And it’s not too late to register for the November election. October 5th is the deadline.
If you have any questions about the November 3rd election websites for the Secretary of State, and Circuit Clerks offices have information and sample ballots are now available for most counties.
Friday night we will hear more about how election machines are kept secure as well as each ballot once voters make their choice. Also what you need to know about face masks and social distancing at the polls.