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Secretary Watson provides Primary...

Secretary Watson provides Primary Election update

By: Sarah Ulmer - March 12, 2024

Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson outlined his plan for the next four years during a meeting with the media Wednesday. He plans to make campaign contributions searchable and enforcement of violations more reliable. Photo by Jeremy Pittari

  • Voter turnout for the presidential primary in Mississippi is looking low, according to Secretary of State Michael Watson.

Secretary of State Michael Watson told Magnolia Tribune that turnout expectations are often indicated by the number of requested and returned absentee ballot. For the Primary election on Tuesday, just over 19,000 were returned, and the office is expecting another 2,000.

For comparison, the 2020 primary saw a total of 519,772 votes cast which was 26.99 percent of registered voters, 274,391 of which were in the Democratic Primary and 245,381 in the Republican Primary.

Further back in 2016, the turnout in Mississippi was higher among Republicans at 416,270 voters with 227,164 for Democrats, for a total primary vote of 643,434. That accounted for 34.83 percent of registered voters.

There were 1,847,278 registered voters in 2016 and 1,925,473 in 2020.

Tuesday morning, Secretary Watson said he visited precincts in Covington and Jackson counties in which poll workers indicated that turnout numbers were very low.

“You can’t always tie it to absentee numbers but that projects a pretty low turnout, so I think that’s going to be consistent throughout the day,” said Watson.

Regarding whether there could be an uptick after work hours, he did not anticipate much of a surge. 

“Overall, I don’t think you’re going to see a huge spike,” Watson said.

Secretary Watson said some issues have been reported relating to precincts opening late. However, besides small problems, things are running according to schedule. Watson indicated he would be visiting precincts today that reported issues such as ballot shortages that occurred during last year’s election.

Mississippi Primary ballots feature several candidates in the Republican presidential race and one on the Democratic side.

Despite having suspended their campaigns, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis will appear on the GOP primary ticket in Mississippi along with the remaining candidate in the race, former President Donald Trump.

There was a deadline to withdraw from the election in Mississippi and to have their name removed from the ballot. Watson said this is a necessary administrative move since ballots must be printed by a certain time. Haley, Ramaswamy, and DeSantis did not submit removal paperwork prior to that deadline.

As to whether these additional names could cause confusion for voters, Watson said he did not anticipate it being a problem.

“I don’t see it being an issue. I think the folks that come out for primaries are the ones plugged in anyway so they’re probably aware that those three won’t be on the ballot in November,” said Watson.

For Democrats, voters will only see President Joe Biden at the top of their ballot.

Voters will also see contenders for the United States Senate and House of Representatives on today’s ballot.

About the Author(s)
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Sarah Ulmer

Sarah is a Mississippi native, born and raised in Madison. She is a graduate of Mississippi State University, where she studied Communications, with an emphasis in Broadcasting and Journalism. Sarah’s experience spans multiple mediums, including extensive videography with both at home and overseas, broadcasting daily news, and hosting a live radio show. In 2017, Sarah became a member of the Capitol Press Corp in Mississippi and has faithfully covered the decisions being made by leaders on some of the most important issues facing our state. Email Sarah:
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