Secretary of state’s office answers election queries at public forum

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 9, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; What’s the deadline for mailing an absentee ballot to the Circuit Clerk’s Office?

If you move from one place to another within a given county before the next election, can you still vote?

If you are convicted of a disenfranchising crime &045; the state has a list of several such crimes &045; can you ever vote again?

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If you don’t know, you’ve got no excuse &045; representatives of the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office spent 90 minutes explaining those and other voting-related questions Thursday night.

Reese Partridge and Jennifer Thomas of the Elections Division gave presentations and answered questions during a public forum hosted by Circuit Clerk M.L. &uot;Binkey&uot; Vines at the Adams County Courthouse.

&uot;This is being done to educate the candidates and their workers, and the general public, so hopefully we’ll eliminate the kind of problems we’ve heard about tonight,&uot; Vines said.

For example, Partridge said there are several mistakes that can disqualify absentee ballots.

Several categories of voters can vote absentee. Those include three categories who can vote by mail: those temporarily residing outside the county, those who are temporarily or permanently physically disabled, and those who are 65 or older.

Mistakes commonly made by those voters include waiting too late to file the ballot, filling the ballot out incompletely or not getting someone to notarize or witness the ballot.

Absentee voting can begin 45 days before an election or as soon as ballots are available.

The deadline for voting absentee at the Circuit Clerk’s Office, for those not eligible by state law to vote by mail, is by noon on the Saturday before the election.

Past fraud throughout the state led to the Legislature’s changing many absentee voting rules over the past 10 years, Partridge said.

Those changes have included requiring the circuit clerk or a deputy clerk to initial and imprint applications for those documents to be considered valid.

Partridge told the more than 50 people who attended the forum &045; mostly local officials, candidates and their workers &045; about a couple of little-known absentee voting facts.

One is that voters serving in the military can call, write or E-mail the Federal Voting Assistance Program for help in getting absentee ballots.

Another is that a voter who can show, through a letter from his doctor, that he is permanently disabled can be added to a permanent list of absentee voters.

Thomas, bureau director for the Elections Division, told those present that a person must live in the county or city in question for 30 days prior to the election to register to vote in that election.

&uot;But don’t wait until 30 days before the deadline to register,&uot; Thomas said.

Registration applications can filed in person at the Circuit Clerk’s Office or by mail.

Oh, and the answers to the first three questions?

The Circuit Clerk’s Office must receive such ballots by 5 p.m. the Monday before the election.

Yes, you can vote by affidavit.

And yes, if you can get a legislator to sponsor a bill to that affect.

And now you know.