Hinds County voters returned to the polls Tuesday in the special election runoff for county attorney, but election officials reported extremely low turnout, which isn’t uncommon for runoffs. One lawmaker hopes bills he is introducing will increase the numbers casting their ballots. Throughout much of the day, Tuesday poll workers sat waiting for voters. At Precinct 14, Fondren Presbyterian Church, only eight people had voted by 11:30 in the special runoff is for county attorney. According to Hinds County election officials, just 6.8% of registered voters cast their ballot in the November 7 election. There are more than 150,800 registered voters in the county.
Articles about voting issues in Mississippi.
Roy Harness is a U.S. Army and a National Guard veteran, a recovered drug addict and a Jackson State University student studying for his master’s degree in social work. He has lived through the stress of military life, the depressing depths of addiction, which led to years of homelessness and helplessness—and ultimately a stint in prison for forging a check. “I owed the drug dealer a lot of money. That’s what caused me to write the check,” Harness told the Jackson Free Press. The McComb native says he started using drugs to numb his fear during his military service as well as deal with the pain of his service-related injuries. He went to prison for the forgery in 1986. Harness knew before he was released in 1988 that he had lost his right to vote—he remembers talking about it while he was in prison. “You hear about all this in jail,” he said. “… When I was up in jail, they were letting people out who were able to go vote.”
Mississippi’s constitution bars its citizens from voting ever again after being convicted of certain felonies. Now a legal group wants the federal courts to remove what it calls an illegal vestige of white supremacy by striking down most of these restrictions. Attorney Rob McDuff, who filed suit Thursday in Jackson, estimates that more than 50,000 Mississippians have been disqualified from voting since 1994 due to these convictions. About 60 percent are African-American, in a state whose population is 37 percent black. The suit describes the disenfranchising crimes as “an integral part of the overall effort to prevent African-Americans in Mississippi from voting. Once you’ve paid your debt to society, I believe you should be allowed to participate again,” said plaintiff Kamal Karriem, a 58-year-old former Columbus city councilman who pleaded guilty to embezzlement in 2005 after being charged with stealing a city cellphone. “I don’t think it should be held against you for the rest of your life.”
Mississippi: State has halted use of Russian software in election systems, Hosemann says | Jackson Clarion- Ledger
U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson on Friday urged Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann to remove any Kaspersky Lab software from Mississippi’s elections systems over fears of Russian hacking. But Hosemann said he made that call about a month ago, after he first heard concerns over the company’s possible ties to the Russian government. He said the Kaspersky antivirus software, sold throughout the U.S., was being used in three Mississippi counties, Adams, Franklin and Wilkinson. One has already switched to another brand and two others are in the process, Hosemann said. “On Aug. 18, we notified all our circuit clerks of potential vulnerabilities of Kaspersky software and at that time determined three of them were using it,” Hosemann said. “All have responded. One I know has already changed and two are in the process.”
Sara Deloach. Patricia Brooks. Judy Lewis. Candidates in Columbus and Lowndes County the past 40-plus years likely know at least one, if not all, of these women and might have used their services. The three, and others, have built a loyal among elderly and residents with disabilities for whom they provide witness signatures on absentee ballots — election after election. State law allows voters who are 65 and older, or will otherwise be unavailable to vote on election day, to cast absentees through the mail or in person at a city registrar’s office for municipal elections or circuit clerk’s office for all others. Most absentees must be signed and witnessed by a notary public or court clerk. But in cases where voters are illiterate or temporarily or permanently disabled, anyone at least 18 years old can provide a witness signature on their mail-in absentee ballots.
House bills to allow early voting and online voter registration died without a vote in a Senate committee on Tuesday, frustrating House Elections Chairman Bill Denny. “They didn’t even take them up in committee,” said Denny, R-Jackson, who also authored both bills. “The Senate Elections chairwoman had said they were DOA. To me that’s almost insulting, to have our committee in the House pass these out two years in a row, then have them pass the full House with no more than two to four dissenting votes, and then the Senate committee not even discuss them, to announce that they are DOA before they even get them.”
City of Meridian officials are considering managing the upcoming municipal elections in-house, rather than using the services of the Lauderdale County Election Commission. At Tuesday’s city council meeting, the city plans to ask the council to allow Election Systems & Software (ESS), to manage the May 2 municipal elections as a means of saving taxpayer money. The Lauderdale County Election Commission oversaw previous municipal elections. “ESS, our finance department and five election commissioners have been trying to oversee elections,” Meridian Mayor Percy Bland said. ” As an administration, we feel ESS, our finance department and five election commissioners will do a good job. We just handled the Food and Beverage Tax special election (in August). Going forward, we believe that ESS and our finance department team can oversee the municipal election compared to the prices that we paid in the past (to the county). We are doing it as a cost-saving measure.” The city will pay ESS $50,927 to oversee the municipal election. For the 2013 municipal election, the city paid the Lauderdale County Election Commission $24,414, which did not include rental fees for county voting machines.
The former Mississippi official whose tweet may have inspired President Trump to order a “major investigation” into voter fraud in the 2016 presidential election says he has been receiving death threats. “There are people who want to kill me,” ex-welfare head Gregg Phillips told The Clarion-Ledger. “It’s insane.” PolitiFact and others have traced the original claim regarding fraud on Election Day to Phillips, who in the past has been accused of profiting from connections he made while serving in government — something he has denied. After Trump’s victory, Phillips tweeted out, “We have verified more than three million votes cast by non-citizens. We are joining @truethevote to initiate legal action.” Then he tweeted: “Completed analysis of database of 180 million voter registrations. Number of non-citizen votes exceeds 3 million. Consulting legal team.” InfoWars published a story with the headline, “Report: Three Million Votes in Presidential Election Cast by Illegal Aliens. Trump may have won popular vote.” The Drudge Report picked up the story, too.
The Senate Elections Committee passed its own version of campaign finance reform on Wednesday and an ‘omnibus’ bill to clean up and tweak Mississippi election code. Senate Elections Chairwoman Sally Doty, R-Brookhaven, said her committee would be open to a House-passed campaign finance bill, but indicated House proposals to allow early voting and online voter registration would be DOA if passed on from the House to the Senate. “There are just too many concerns about online hacking — even allegations from this last election — to look at (online registration) this year,” Doty said of a measure House Elections approved to allow first-time voters to register online. Last year, the Legislature approved people changing their registration online after they move, but the Senate stripped out first-time registration online.
Proposals to expand access to early voting and to create online registration for first-time voters are advancing at the Mississippi Capitol. So is a plan that could eventually simplify the process of restoring voting rights for people who served time for nonviolent felonies. All three bills passed the House Elections Committee on Monday and move to the full House for more debate. House Bill 228 would allow no-excuses in-person early voting, starting 14 days before an election. Current law only lets people vote early if they will be out of town Election Day.