Watson: Surge in absentee ballots won’t delay Miss. election results more than one day

Election officials report nearly a quarter-million absentee votes ahead of Election Day
Updated: Nov. 2, 2020 at 8:53 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - While experts fear a pandemic-related surge in absentee voting could delay the outcome of Tuesday’s election, Mississippi’s elections chief believes the delay will be minimal.

Secretary of State Michael Watson said most, 76 percent, of those absentee ballots were actually in-person votes, meaning the counties have had those envelopes in-house already, and the rest of those would be mailed in.

“That number is about 60,000 mail-in,” Watson said. “We received already 41,000 on the mail-in number. We’re getting that pretty quickly. I don’t think there’s going to be a huge backlog.”

In counties all across the state Monday, employees began the sorting process, which represents the last step before those envelopes are scrutinized and eventually counted.

In Hinds, the most populous county in Mississippi, nearly 17,000 absentee ballots flooding that office, challenging its staff.

Watson said the resolution board in each county will start looking through them to determine which ones should be accepted or rejected.

“The process can start as early as 7 a.m., and those ballots will start to be scanned at 7 p.m.," Watson said.

Hinds County has a special ballot scanner to make the process faster. Watson said he doesn’t think they’ll have the majority counted by election night statewide, but projects most will be counted by Wednesday at noon.

“There may be some stragglers that come in. You look at USPS and how quick they can get those turnaround times in the mail. That’s going to be a factor here in Mississippi as well as the rest of the country," Watson said.

Absentee ballots can be accepted as late as November 10, one week from Tuesday, as long as they’re postmarked November 3.

And for those absentee ballots with mistakes, specifically signature mismatches, the voter will be notified and has ten calendar days to fix the issue - meaning the latest an absentee ballot could be counted is November 13.

Watson said nearly a quarter-million absentee ballots went out this year, 13 percent of the state’s active registered voters already exercising their right.

“We’re so excited about the turnout that we’ve seen an absentee voting and we believe that that’s going to extend to voting tomorrow," Watson said.

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