MOSELLE, Miss. (WDAM) - Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson says the state is seeing record-breaking numbers for absentee voting.
“190,087 have been requested and 186,998 have already been sent out,” Watson said. “That’s incredible.”
With more than 164,000 absentee ballots already received and mail-in ballots counting if they are postmarked by Nov. 3, what does this mean for Mississippi when it comes to election results after the polls close?
“The counties have 10 days to return that to us to make sure there’s an accurate and certified count,” Watson said. “I do think we’ll have a great idea on election night, again with the process that’s in place now allowing the resolution board to process through the absentee votes at the courthouse and then scan them in starting at 7 p.m. I think we’ll see those numbers pretty quickly, but again, the certified process are given 10 days, so you won’t see a final and total until that 10th day, but I think we’ll have a really good idea on Election Day.”
During this pandemic, if you’re dealing with COVID-19 and need to vote, Watson suggests you contact your circuit clerk’s office ahead of Election Day.
“Go ahead and get that number for the precinct, go ahead and get that explanation from them on a local level so you can be prepared,” Watson said. “Again, the administrative rules expanding that just a little bit dealing with COVID-19, so if you are diagnosed or if you’re experiencing those symptoms, you can do curbside vote.”
A few counties in the Pine Belt are under Gov. Tate Reeves' mask mandate, including Lamar, Forrest and Jones counties. So what does this mean in regards to wearing a mask when voting?
“As far as I’m concerned, as far as what I believe the constitution would say, you cannot force anyone to wear a mask to vote, you can’t deny them that right to vote just cause they don’t have a mask on,” Watson said.
He says voters concerned with masks being optional, should vote during off-peak hours.
“So around 10 o’clock, around 2 o’clock,” Watson said. “Beginning in the morning, lunchtime and around 5 to 7, those would be your busy times. So, I would just encourage those folks again, if there’s something that’s going on that you’re not comfortable with, be it a mask, be it a conceal carry, just be patient and wait your turn.”
Before you head to the polls, Watson reminds voters on campaign rules and what is and isn’t allowed.
“If it is on the ballot, you cannot wear a T-shirt or hat like that into the precinct,” Watson said. “Again, you’ve got to be 150 feet away. That’s one of the other issues that we’ve talked about to our poll managers, making sure that you’re aware of this, you cannot loiter within 30 feet.”
According to Watson, poll workers and managers will be required to wear a mask.
You can find more information such as polling place locations, circuit clerk contact information and COVID-19 voting policies at sos.ms.gov.