FORREST COUNTY, Miss. (WDAM) - As we approach the general election, we take a look at the number of registered voters and what experts believe is important for the state of Mississippi moving forward to the presidential election in 2020.
Mississippi voters will make an impact.
“They are the only ones that matter,” said Dr. Joe Weinberg, associate professor of political science at the University of Southern Mississippi.
As the general election approaches, there are currently more than 1.9 million registered voters in Mississippi, according to the Secretary of State’s office.
“Mississippi actually has a higher percentage of registered voters," Weinberg said. "That’s a percentage of the eligible voters than the national average. I think part of that is because we’ve made it pretty easy to register to vote when you get your license.”
Weinberg said Pine Belt voters will have a big influence on the statewide election.
“If there are swing states in a presidential election, I think it might be fair to say we are sort of a swing region, if we are going to take the whole Pine Belt," Weinberg said. "We could go either way.”
Taking a look at the numbers on the local level, in the eight Pine Belt counties there are more than 180,00 registered voters with the highest number of voters being in Forrest County, which has nearly 46,500 people.
“The Pine Belt is more democratic than the rest of the state primarily because of the City of Hattiesburg and the university," Weinberg said. "Demographically, we skew a little more blue than the rest of the state. But, if you take the rest of the Pine Belt counties it probably evens out.”
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said registered voters are Mississippi's future.
“Governors are elected, judges are elected and the legislature is elected," Hosemann said. "The whole republic we have in Mississippi and in the country rests on the ballot box. Everything we have and everything everyone has fought and died for in this country begins with the right to cast a free ballot and so we encourage everyone to cast a ballot.”
Leaders in the Hosemann’s office continue making a big push to not only have Mississippians registered to vote, but to encourage them to actually cast a ballot on election day. Weinberg said voter turnout is key.
“Being registered is just half of it," Weinberg said. "You can’t vote unless you are registered, but just because you are registered doesn’t mean that you are going to vote. So, turnout is the other thing.”
Both state and local candidates continue on the campaign trail as the November general election approaches. Taking a look back in history, the political science expert said even if you are not registered to vote in the upcoming election, it’s still crucial those eligible people register to vote moving forward for years to come.
“Especially if you look at the history of Mississippi and the rest of the United States," Weinberg said. "The idea that this wasn’t always easy. This wasn’t always free and we fought a lot of battles real and metaphorical to secure this right. I don’t think that soldiers in World War II or civil right activists in the 60s would be very happy if they saw these numbers about who is actually participating.”