HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Coronavirus cases are still on the rise in Mississippi, and election officials are taking steps to protect voters at the polls.
According to state officials, absentee ballot requests for 2020 are soaring past the number of ballots requested in 2016.
“In 2016 we had 110,000 so we have blown by that number,” said Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson.
According to Secretary Watson, nearly 136,000 requests for absentee ballots have been made this year. And, there’s still time for more.
Absentee ballots that are mailed must be postmarked by November 3rd, and Secretary Watson explains how the state is ensuring those ballots are counted if they’re received after Election Day.
“The way that works is obviously we have the statewide election management system so once someone requests a ballot, you are marked in the system as requesting an absentee ballot and then we will track that," said Watson. "Once those come back in again you can see it match up- those who requested, those who sent it back in to make sure you are accurately counted.”
However, with 12 days until our nation’s voters cast their ballots and with a required 14 day isolation period for COVID-19 positive patients, the question arises about how voters that contract coronavirus in the next 12 days do not lose their Constitutional right to vote.
Watson tells WDAM the Magnolia State received $4.7 million dollars from the CARES Act for the November election and says $2.5 million was allocated to counties where election officials are taking steps to protect COVID-19 positive or exposed voters.
“They were purchasing tents and tables to set up outdoor open-air voting places so folks that were exposed or were feeling symptoms or were diagnosed with COVID-19 would still have a safe place to vote," said Watson. "Additionally, you can also curbside vote. If you are diagnosed or you have been exposed, and you’re going to be, you want to make sure that you’re careful, again you can curbside vote. Or, if the precinct does offer open-air experience you can do that as well.”
Absentee voting will continue in person at circuit clerk offices on Sat., Oct. 24 from 8 a.m. until noon and again on Sat., Oct. 31 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The final day to vote absentee in-person is Oct. 31.