Election-law reform has been a slow process in Mississippi, but with the help of a bi-partisan committee’s report, that could change soon. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann formed a committee of legislators, circuit clerks, election commissioners and other citizens to review the state’s election code. The 2016 Election Law Reform Committee met from June through September 2015 and published a report of their recommendations on Jan. 19. The committee suggests several changes to Mississippi’s election code, including online voter registration, campaign-finance reporting and election official conduct. Hosemann views the changes as “phase two” of election-law reform that he says started with the voter-ID laws that went into effect in 2014. Hosemann told the Stennis Press Forum on Feb. 1 that the committee looked at several other state election laws to help inform their recommendations.
Delbert Hosemann is back at it, trying to convince the Mississippi Legislature that there is still much work to be done to bring Mississippi’s voting procedures into the 21st century while also taking steps to reduce the potential for fraud or dirty tricks. The secretary of state, now beginning his third term, did an admirable job implementing voter ID, an oversold and overemotional issue that distracted this state from addressing where its biggest problem with voter fraud lies — absentee ballots. Hosemann’s newest proposals don’t tackle absentee-ballot fraud head-on either, although his pitch for allowing voters to cast their ballots in person at the courthouse for up to 21 days before Election Day should reduce the number of absentee ballots cast overall. Still, if you are a candidate inclined to cheat, you’re going to use mail-in absentee ballots anyway, since the fraud becomes much harder to catch that way. Even with that said, though, allowing no-excuse early voting is a good idea that should, if nothing else, increase voter turnout. It certainly eliminates one of the main excuses of people who don’t get to the polls. … A glaring omission in what is otherwise a good package of proposals is Hosemann’s silence on a disturbing trend in this state to eliminate the paper trail on voting. More than three-fourths of the 77 counties in Mississippi with touch-screen voting machines have disconnected their external printers, by which voters could previously verify on paper that their vote has been accurately recorded.
Mississippi: Early voting among election changes Hosemann would like to see in Mississippi | Sun Herald
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann is asking legislators to update Mississippi’s election laws, including allowing online voter registration and early voting at county courthouses. Republican Hosemann unveiled his proposals Tuesday. Voters will be able to change their addresses online as well. “That saves a lot of time and effort and a lot of mad people,” said Hosemann. “The process costs about 83 cents to do it by mail. This will cost us about 3 cents so there’s a big cost savings.” There won’t be online voting, nor voting at shopping centers and the like, which other states have tried. “I’m not going to do that because I can’t tell you it’s secure,” he said of online voting.
Mississippians could register to vote online and begin voting 21 days before an election without an absentee excuse under a “complete revision” of election laws Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann is proposing to the Legislature. “It is time to address outdated and inefficient election laws which have, in some cases, been on the books for decades,” Hosemann said on Tuesday, releasing his proposals with a Capitol press conference. “These proposals make it easier to cast your ballot, harder for someone to cheat the electorate and provide severe penalties for those who do.” Hosemann recommends tougher, consolidated penalties for election-law crimes, which he noted are almost never prosecuted in part because they are not clearly defined or understood. His proposal would consolidate all election crimes and penalties, making them either misdemeanors with a maximum fine of $1,000 and a year in jail, or felonies with maximum $3,000 fines and up to two years in jail.
Sometimes American politics is about ideas, powered by Jeffersons and Adamses and Reagans. Sometimes it is about strategy, with races determined by the chess-match machinations of Axelrods and Roves. But every once in a while, the fate of governments is determined by a considerably less eminent character, one usually found lurking in back-alley craps games and on the Vegas strip: Lady Luck. In Mississippi on Friday, luck smiled on a Democratic state representative, Blaine Eaton II, who had been forced, by state law, to draw straws for his seat after his race for re-election ended in a tie. On Friday afternoon, in a short, strange ceremony here presided over by Gov. Phil Bryant and Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, Mr. Eaton and his Republican challenger, Mark Tullos, each removed a silver box from a bag. Mr. Eaton opened his box to reveal a long green straw. And with that, a mathematically improbable tie for the House District 79 seat — each candidate had received exactly 4,589 votes — had been broken, though not by the voters.
Five of Mississippi’s 82 counties are reporting high rates of absentee voting, the state’s top elections official said Tuesday. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said about 5 percent to 6 percent of voters usually cast absentee ballots. Hosemann said the rate so far this year is nearly 14 percent in Noxubee County, 11 percent in Quitman County, 8 percent in Claiborne County, 7 percent in Tallahatchie County and 6 percent in Benton County. All five are Democratic-leaning counties.
Mississippians could soon see some changes in the way they vote. A report released by Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann’s office outlines a number of recommendations to change Mississippi’s election laws. The report is the end product of a series of meetings held last summer by a 52 member panel organized to review how Mississippian’s vote, and ways to improve the process. Hosemann says “for a couple of years we have been discussing amendments to the election code [that] really is a mismatch over a period of years has been added onto and subtracted and they are contradicting provisions in there,” says Hosemann. “There are just a lot of things that I have wanted to address.”
The Hinds County supervisors are calling on the local district attorney and the state attorney general to sanction the county election commission for failure to order the number of ballots state law requires for the Nov. 4 general election. Despite only one-third of the county’s 156,000 registered voters going to the polls for the mid-term election, some precincts did have unexpectedly high turnout. Some of those polling places ran out of ballots late in the evening, which touched off a mad scramble to print more. Agitated by the long waits, some voters left without casting their ballots. Later, Connie Cochran—the chairwoman of the Hinds County Election Commission—admitted that the commission failed to follow a state law mandating that enough ballots be printed for 75 percent of registered voters. Cochran took responsibility for making the call to save the county money.
A Hinds County election commissioner is taking the blame after several polling places ran out of ballots on election night. Election officials said 35 to 40 polling locations in Hinds County ran out of paper ballots before the polls closed at 7 p.m. “I usually zip right in and right out, but not tonight. I’m going to sit here until I vote,” voter Susanna Green said Tuesday night. “Most of these people are taking it very nicely. They are, as you can see, sitting around waiting for the ballots to show up,” said poll worker Sandy Wilkerson. Connie Cochran, the District 4 election commissioner, apologized Wednesday to voters who were inconvenienced. Scores of voters were forced to stand in line, some for more than an hour, waiting for more ballots to be brought in.
Amid the turmoil over the Republican U.S. Senate primary, Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann has a 51-member panel considering election reforms to present to lawmakers next year. Early voting, online registration, closed or open primaries – Hosemann said implementing voter ID and “having some bright lights thrown on our election process” from the Senate race makes reform likely. If the panel deadlocks on major issues, such as overhauling Mississippi’s hybrid open/closed – no one’s really sure — primary system, Hosemann said he expects the panel and legislators to at least “nibble around the edges” and make some changes. The panel is a bipartisan group of community, business and academic leaders, most with no direct political party ties or titles, Hosemann said. Its chairman, attorney and businessman James Overstreet Jr., told panelists at their first meeting Wednesday, “I’m a political novice – my experience has been limited to voting and giving a few dollars to candidates.” The panel’s first meeting Wednesday focused on primary elections.
Incumbent Thad Cochran is on the November ballot as the GOP U.S. Senate candidate unless a court orders otherwise, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said, and voting will start in September. The Board of Election Commissioners – Hosemann, Gov. Phil Bryant and Attorney General Jim Hood – approved a ballot for Nov. 4 with no discussion of Chris McDaniel’s lawsuit challenging his primary loss to Cochran. The ballot includes Democrat Travis Childers, Reform Party Shawn O’Hara and Republican Cochran for Senate. A subordinate filled in for Hood at Tuesday’s meeting. McDaniel’s lawyers last week asked for an injunction preventing Hosemann from sending out general election ballots until McDaniel’s challenge is decided. The judge declined.
Mississippi: Despite election challenge, Mississippi ballot set with Thad Cochran as Senate nominee | Associated Press
Mississippi elections commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved a November ballot that lists Republican Thad Cochran, Democrat Travis Childers and the Reform Party’s Shawn O’Hara as nominees for U.S. Senate. Approval of the ballot came, as expected, while Chris McDaniel’s challenge of his Republican primary loss to Cochran is still awaiting trial. The judge overseeing McDaniel’s challenge said last week that he would not block preparations for the general election, including the setting of the ballot. State law says the ballot must be given to counties by Sept. 10, which is 55 days before the Nov. 4 general election. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said Mississippi must make absentee ballots available to overseas military voters starting Sept. 20. “Unless we’re ordered to the contrary, we’re going to follow the process,” Hosemann said after Tuesday’s meeting.
As Chris McDaniel’s team continues to scour voting records to add to an expected legal challenge of his loss to Thad Cochran, it has listed McDaniel’s lead lawyer in the challenge, and his wife, as irregular votes that should be tossed out. McDaniel lawyer Mitchell H. “Mitch” Tyner Sr. on Monday sent Cochran’s attorneys additional affidavits listing hundreds more alleged illegal or irregular votes from the June 24 runoff. Problem is, Tyner and his wife, Sloane Tyner, were flagged by a McDaniel volunteer as “CROSSOVER/IRREGULAR VOTING” in one of the new affidavits claiming problems with Madison County voting. The affidavit says that with Tyner and his wife’s votes, records showed “voted written in margin and on June 24.” It would appear, given McDaniel’s assertion that he really won the election by 25,000 votes and other claims, that the Tyners are alleged to have improperly voted for Cochran.
An attorney for the Mississippi Republican Party says state law does not prohibit people from crossing over to vote in party’s primary and another’s primary runoff, an issue in Chris McDaniel’s presumed challenge to his GOP runoff loss to Sen. Thad Cochran. “You heard me right,” said Michael Wallace, attorney for the state Republican Party. “There is an attorney general’s opinion on the subject, but that is all. The attorney general may be right. I wasn’t telling the judge that the attorney general wasn’t right. I was telling her that the issue has never gone to court. … The attorney general may be 100 percent right, but the issue has not been tested in court that I know of. It may have came up in a county court somewhere that hasn’t made it to reported cases. But to the best of my knowledge, it hasn’t been tested. All we have is an attorney general interpretation.”
The Federal judge assigned to hear Texas-based group True the Vote and 22 Mississippians’ lawsuit against Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, the state Republican Party and election commissions in nine counties said the case is pretty cut and dry in her mind. True the Vote claims it was denied access to voting records in Copiah, Hinds, Jefferson Davis, Lauderdale, Leake, Madison, Rankin, Simpson and Yazoo counties. The group also claims records have been destroyed or tampered with. U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas of Texas said today during a hearing in Jackson that case technically is about what documents can be seen. “This is not a case of voter fraud,” Atlas said. “It’s whether the National Voter Registration Act was complied with and whether it preempts state statute. This case is about transparency of the voter process with the counter issue of voter privacy.”
A hearing is set for Thursday in the Texas-based group True the Vote and 22 Mississippians federal lawsuit against Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, the state Republican Party and election commission in nine counties. True the Vote claims it was denied access to voting records in Copiah, Hinds, Jefferson Davis, Lauderdale, Leake, Madison, Rankin, Simpson and Yazoo counties. The group also claims records have been destroyed or tampered with. True the Vote is looking for people who voted in the June 3 Democratic primary and then illegally crossed over to vote in the June 24 Republican runoff between U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran and challenger Chris McDaniel. Many of the 22 residents who joined the lawsuit are vocal McDaniel supporters.
Mississippi: Chris McDaniel asks Mississippi Supreme Court to open voting records | Associated Press
U.S. Senate challenger Chris McDaniel is taking his quest to view original voting records to the Mississippi Supreme Court. McDaniel asked Monday for an emergency order forcing Harrison County Circuit Clerk Gayle Parker to let him see original copies of poll books. He’s trying to prove people who voted in the June 3 Democratic primary illegally voted in the June 24 Republican runoff won by incumbent U.S. Sen Thad Cochran. Cochran finished with a 7,667-vote margin of victory, according to official results. McDaniel ultimately is trying to persuade a court to order a new runoff, arguing his loss was tainted by illegality. His lawyers say they have a right to the full original records, including birthdates.
Conservatives backing Mississippi tea partier Chris McDaniel have filed a lawsuit against the Republican Party of Mississippi and the Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann claiming that voters who supported Sen. Thad Cochran in his come-from-behind runoff victory last week broke the law by also voting in the Democratic primary. McDaniel, a state senator who eked out a victory over Cochran in the June 3 Republican primary, has refused to concede after losing the June 24 runoff by a 6,700-vote margin. He alleges that Cochran’s successful effort to expand his voter base to include Democrats resulted in “thousands or irregularities in the voting process.” The lawsuit, filed by the conservative group True the Vote, names 13 voters who it says “double-voted” — cast ballots in Mississippi’s Democratic primary and then in the Republican runoff.
When Mississippi voters arrive at the polls for Tuesday’s Republican Senate primary runoff, they’ll be required to show a driver’s license or other government issued photo ID – the result of a new state voter ID law that went into effect for the June 3 primaries. The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi – a staunch opponent of the voter ID requirement – was ready to spend June 3 fielding complaints from voters turned away at the polls. As it turns out, they received no such complaints, an ACLU employee told CBS News. “99.9% of Mississippians cast their ballot by showing an ID. Only 300 voters out of 400,000 voters failed to return within seven days with a photo ID to verify their affidavit ballot,” commended Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, a Republican.
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said Wednesday that Mississippi’s first election requiring photo identification reinforces his belief that the state no longer needs federal oversight to handle elections and redistricting. The Republican released figures showing 513 Mississippians cast affidavit ballots June 3 because they lacked proper identification, with at least 177 returning later to show ID and get votes counted. Another 298 ballots were rejected because people did not return by the Tuesday deadline, and 13 were rejected for other reasons, such as voters not being registered. Three counties with 25 ballots among them had not reported by Wednesday what happened to those affidavits. A total of 400,000 ballots were cast.
Mississippi on Tuesday will use its new voter ID law for the first time, culminating a long political fight in a state with a troubled past of voting-rights suppression. People will be required to show a driver’s license or other government-issued photo identification at the polls during the Republican and Democratic primaries for U.S. House and Senate. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, the state’s top elections official, said about 1,000 people who lacked an acceptable form of photo ID have received a free one from local election clerks. “Mississippi is one big small town,” Hosemann said last week. “When we cast our ballot on Election Day, there is a high probability of knowing the poll workers in the precinct. However, voter ID is not discretionary.”
The primary election is less than a week away, and it will be the first election under Mississippi’s new voter ID law. Poll observers went through a last-minute training session Wednesday at Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann’s office. The rules for Tuesday’s election include the highly-debated new law, and the attorney general issued a legal opinion earlier this week. He said that if a poll worker doesn’t ask a voter for an ID, the poll worker could face a misdemeanor charge. “Even if it is your mother, they have to ask,” Hosemann said “They have to ask, and whatever excuse you have got, it won’t work.”
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and his claque in the media were cruising along self assuredly that the state’s voter ID was home free from any federal court derailment since the Supreme Court junked a core provision in the 1965 Voting Rights Act one year ago. Then suddenly things began to turn around. Last week, a federal judge in Wisconsin struck down that state’s voter ID law. And, in doing so, he provided a pathway for other states to challenge similar laws by circumventing the high court’s butchery of the 1965 act. The 90-page voter ID ruling, written by Federal District Judge Lynn Adelman of Wisconsin’s Eastern District, marked the sixth court action blocking ID voting laws in the past year, each in a Republican-controlled state. Last year, the Supreme Court had upheld constitutionality of the overall Voting Rights Act but gutted Section 5, which had required nine states, including Mississippi, to pre-clear any voting changes with the Justice Department.
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann is telling everyone he sees about two national awards the state won for its Voter ID campaign. Barring a lawsuit, the June 3 primaries in Mississippi will mark the first time the state has required voter identification in a statewide election, putting into practice a policy Mississippi voters approved by 62 percent of the vote back in 2012. Hosemann believes that the state has avoided a lawsuit on the implementation of voter ID because his office was proactive in working with the U.S. Justice Department guidance in devising a voter ID process that respected the Constitution and was as fair and accessible as possible. That’s a remarkably simply solution. Hosemann points out the obvious but important fact that voter ID has long been a contentious political issue in Mississippi. The issue dominated political debate in the state for more than 20 years with Republicans arguing for it as a tool to offset voter fraud and Democrats arguing against it as a form of voter intimidation in a state with a sorry voting rights history.
Mississippi election officials preparing to use the state’s voter identification law for the first time are training poll workers, hosting community information sessions and sending out more than 1.5 million pamphlets. The first test of the state’s controversial law will be the June 3 primary for candidates for U.S. Senate and House. “It’s going very well here. The opposition to this appears to have melted away,” said Republican Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann. “We have found as we have rolled this out over the last 90 days our political parties have embraced it … and we have had our faith-based communities embrace it.”
A Secretary of State analysis said about 10.4 percent of absentee ballots that were definitively accepted or rejected in Hattiesburg’s special mayoral election in September were incorrectly counted. According to a “Report of Absentee Voting” released Friday morning by the Secretary of State’s Office, a review of 1,044 of the 1,048 absentee ballots cast showed about 8.5 percent of those marked “accepted” should have been rejected, while about 31.9 percent of those marked “rejected” should have been accepted.
The Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus is asking U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to block the state’s plan to start using a voter identification law. “The law adversely affects Mississippi’s most vulnerable population, namely, the elderly, minorities and disabled,” the caucus wrote a letter dated Wednesday and released Thursday. Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann says the June 3 federal primaries will be the first time Mississippi voters will be required to show a driver’s license or other form of government-issued photo identification at the polls. Mississippians approved a voter ID constitutional amendment in 2011, and legislators put the mandate into law in 2012.
State Sen. David Blount is proposing an upgrade to the voter registration system in Mississippi. “We need to get away from mailing paper back and forth through the mail and we ought to do stuff online,” said Blount. “Because the fundamental principle is the more people who are involved in our democracy, the better our government will be.” There’s currently the option to go to the local circuit clerk’s office or print out a form on the secretary of state’s website. But you can’t submit it online. “It’s just not the way business is conducted in the 21st century,” Blount said. He says a few clicks could streamline the process.
A state senator wants to allow online voter registration and believes there will be bipartisan support for the legislation. Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson, said he is crafting a bill for the 2014 Legislature, which begins Tuesday, to allow online voter registration. Blount said he doesn’t believe there will be widespread opposition because mail-in voter registration is allowed now. Also, he said the new law requiring people to show a photo ID to vote should allay any concerns over online registration. But Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann’s spokeswoman Pamela Weaver said Hosemann has serious concerns regarding the security of online voter registration.
Despite opposition from Democratic-leaning groups who say laws requiring voter ID could keep minorities, young people and college students away from polls, Mississippi’s voter ID law will first be tested in a hot Republican primary for one of the state’s U.S. Senate seats. Mississippi Secretary of State of Delbert Hosemann’s office is launching a publicity blitz to bring attention to the state’s voter-identification law that’s scheduled to be used for the first time for the June 2014 primaries. The most highly anticipated in the state, that election will pit incumbent U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, who announced plans to seek reelection last week, against state Sen. Chris McDaniel in a proxy between the GOP’s mainstream and more radical Tea Party factions. Hosemann and several other Republicans had been eyeing the seat had Cochran opted for retirement. Of the voter ID awareness campaign, Hosemann told reporters Monday that his office is airing two 30-second TV commercials—one that started Monday and one that starts in January.