Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann Thursday questioned the high number of absentee votes, mostly in the Democratic-dominated Delta region, that were cast Aug. 3 in the state’s primary election. The highest percentage of absentee votes, more than 29 percent, was reported in Quitman County, compared to just 2 percent in Jackson County. Only 3 percent of DeSoto County votes — 847 out of 24,812 total — were absentees.
“Absentee balloting appears to be increasing in this state,” Hosemann, a Republican who handily won his primary race, said in a news release. About 6 percent of total ballots cast statewide were absentees. That compares of only 2 percent absentees cast in the 2008 presidential election, Hosemann said.
Unlike many states, Mississippi does not have early voting. It does, however, offer absentee voting for voters who will be out of their district on election day or for the elderly. Voters not over 65 years old and who are not disabled have to certify they will be unavailable to vote in person on election day and are not supposed to use absentee ballots as a way to vote early.
Quitman County Circuit Clerk Brenda Wiggs, who oversees local elections, said a high percentage of absentee votes is the norm in her county.
Wiggs said she’s seen absentee rates even higher, 32.6 percent in the 2008 general election.
“We have a large population over 65 who prefer not to use voting machines, and they like to come in at their leisure and they’re more likely to do that,” said Wiggs, who has held the office in Marks, Miss., for 24 years.
“We have a lot of students and people on disability, and the candidates encourage them to vote absentee.”
The U.S. Census Bureau reported that 13.5 percent of Quitman County residents in 2010 were over 65, compared to Mississippi’s 12.8 percent.
Electronic voting machines also intimidate some voters, especially those who have never used a computer or similar electronic devices, Wiggs said.