The Mississippi secretary of state has received paperwork from a group that wants to put an initiative on the ballot to expand early voting.
Give them credit for good timing. Georgia is getting all sorts of criticism for legislation it just passed on the topic. Depending on who you talk to, they’re either discriminating against minorities or eliminating ways to vote fraudulently.
Mississippi is ripe for an expansion of early voting. By most measurements, the state has some of the most restrictive laws in the country about voting ahead of an election.
The largest group of voters allowed to cast advance ballots, or vote absentee, is people over age 65. Those who are permanently disabled, who will be outside their home county on an election day or who will be working while polls are open also can vote in advance.
The Associated Press reported the proposal would allow all voters to cast a ballot at least 10 days before an election. This would be done at a circuit clerk’s office, municipal clerk’s office or “other qualifying polling locations.”
The two questions to ask are: Why shouldn’t all Mississippi voters have the option to vote in advance if they choose? And what problems have been reported in states where early voting — or absentee voting, whatever name you wish to give it — is permitted for everyone?
On the surface, the initiative’s proposal to allow anyone to vote up to 10 days before an election at a circuit clerk’s office or municipal clerk’s office doesn’t sound like a threat to voter integrity. The people who work in those offices already are trained to handle absentee ballots and to follow existing procedures to confirm a voter’s identity. (Let’s wait and see how “other qualifying locations” are defined.)
This proposal is a far cry from other advance procedures like mail-in voting, which is used in a few states and relies on matching signatures to confirm identity.
Republicans are solidly on record as opposing the expansion of early voting. Gov. Tate Reeves has said he would veto any such legislation, which may be the reason for the initiative.
Such citizen-led efforts to amend the state Constitution can be successful but rarely are. Last year’s medical marijuana initiative, which passed by a surprisingly large margin, was a significant exception to this rule.
As the law stands, initiative advocates have to get about 106,000 signatures of voters on petitions within one year to put the issue on the ballot.
But if enough voters sign, the Legislature then has the right to add its own competing proposal to the same ballot — which is what happened last year with medical marijuana. And finally, to be put into the Constitution, an initiative must receive a majority of votes cast on the issue, which must also be more than 40% of the total number of people who voted in that election.
It’s far too early to predict what will happen. But early voting is a hot topic right now, which works in this proposal’s favor. The designers also were wise to limit the reach of their idea.
— From The (McComb) Enterprise-Journal