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Absentee ballot access expanded, drop...

Absentee ballot access expanded, drop boxes prohibited in Mississippi

By: Jeremy Pittari - May 29, 2024

  • On-call workers and in-county inmates now able to vote absentee. Governor Reeves allows the bill to become law without his signature.

A new law will expand access to absentee ballots in Mississippi while prohibiting drop boxes in the state.

Mississippi law allows for absentee voting under certain circumstances. HB 1406, authored by State Representative Mark Tullos (R), provides two additional eligible reasons to qualify to vote absentee.

The first allows voters employed in jobs that require them to be on-call on Election Day to vote absentee. Example professions include first responders and those working in the medical field, such as nurses and doctors. 

The second allows voters who are incarcerated in a facility in the county where they are registered to vote to receive an absentee ballot. Those voters must not have been convicted of a disenfranchising crime. Current law allows inmates being held outside of their registered county to request a mail-in ballot.

During discussion of the bill in the Senate, State Senator Angela Hill (R) expressed concern of the potential for unregistered persons and those who have committed disenfranchising crimes to obtain ballots while in prison. Senate Elections Committee Chairman Senator Jeremy England (R), who presented the legislation to the chamber, assured Hill that only registered, eligible voters in those facilities would receive a ballot. 

“Nobody can get a ballot mailed to them if they’re not a registered and qualified elector,” England explained.

Senator England added that the bill addressed concerns from the Attorney General’s office seeking to ensure inmates eligible to vote could cast an absentee ballot. 

The new law also streamlines the process by which a Circuit Clerk’s office validates a person’s identity, no longer requiring staff to match signatures as voters are required to show a valid photo ID. After completing their absentee ballot and inserting it in the provided envelope, absentee voters will still sign the envelope across the flap. Yet, as Senator England told his colleagues on the Senate floor, the new law clarifies that the ballot cannot be rejected for minor signature infractions.

“But what we clarified is that if any portion of that signature is outside the box, then that is not grounds to reject the ballot,” Senator England explained before the legislation passed the chamber by a vote of 33-17. 

In addition, the new law prohibits the use of drop boxes or hand-delivery for mail-in ballots. The legislation provides that voters should use the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx or other common mail carriers when submitting their ballot if not voting in-person at a Circuit Clerk’s office.

Secure Democracy Foundation Director of Advocacy Evan Preston thanked lawmakers for taking action on the expanded access provisions.

“This new law will improve the voting process for Mississippians and help clerks continue to run secure and fair elections,” Preston said in a statement.

His organization would like to see legislators take up other measures next session including in-person early voting, voting rights restoration, and a codified ballot cure process.

Senator England attempted to allow for 15 days of early voting prior to an Election Day, excluding Sundays and ending the Saturday before the scheduled election. The measure would have eliminated in-person absentee voting, but mail-in absentee voting would still have been accessible.

While the legislation, SB 2580, passed overwhelmingly in the Senate by a vote of 44 to 8, House Chairman of Apportionment and Elections State Representative Noah Sanford (R) chose not to take it up in his committee prior to the deadline, effectively killing the bill.

READ MORE: Early voting legislation dies in House

HB 1406 was allowed to go into law without the signature of Governor Tate Reeves (R) on May 14. It will take effect as of July 1st.

About the Author(s)
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Jeremy Pittari

Jeremy Pittari is a lifelong resident of the Gulf Coast. Born and raised in Slidell, La., he moved to South Mississippi in the early 90s. Jeremy earned an associate in arts from Pearl River Community College and went on to attend the University of Southern Mississippi, where he earned a bachelor's of arts in journalism. A week after Hurricane Katrina, he started an internship as a reporter with the community newspaper in Pearl River County. After graduation, he accepted a full-time position at that news outlet where he covered the recovery process post Katrina in Pearl River and Hancock Counties. For nearly 17 years he wrote about local government, education, law enforcement, crime, business and a variety of other topics. Email Jeremy: