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Sunday Focus: Local voters talk about upcoming Mississippi presidential primary

NATCHEZ — Mississippi voters will go to the polls Tuesday in party primaries to cast their votes for the candidates of their choice in the Democratic and Republican party races for President, U.S. Senator and Third Congressional District U.S. House of Representatives.

Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Voters must have a government-issued photo identification to vote and will have to choose whether to vote in the Democratic Party Primary or the Republican Party Primary.

Low early voter turnout

Adams County Circuit Clerk Eva Givens said that as of Thursday only 170 people had cast absentee ballots, which officials say is way below expectations.

Likewise, Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson said statewide absentee ballots are down.

“As we continue to meet with circuit clerks and election commissioners across the state, I’ve noticed a lower-than-usual amount of absentee ballots returned to Circuit Clerks,” Watson said in press statement. “In 2016, circuit clerks received more than 20,000 requests for absentee ballots. This year, circuit clerks have only received about 15,000 requests, and as of March 3, 2020, only about 10,500 ballots have been returned to circuit clerks.”

Watson said his office has been working to get the word out about Tuesday’s election.

“Our office has been spreading the word and encouraging Mississippians as often as we can to get out and vote in the upcoming primary elections, so we hope those numbers will see a spike this weekend,” Watson said. “Additionally, we’ll continue our efforts to drive up the turnout on Election Day. Too many men and women fought for our right to vote for us not to give it our all. We’ll continue to remind voters of what an honor the right to vote is and encourage them to get to the polls.”

Watson said mailed absentee ballots must be received by 5 p.m. on Monday, March 9.

“Polls are open on Tuesday, March 10, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.,” Watson said. “Any voter in line at 7 p.m. is entitled to cast a ballot. Voters can find their polling place and a sample ballot by visiting the Secretary of State’s Polling Place Locator https://www.sos.ms.gov/PollingPlace/Pages/default.aspx.”

Voters ready to go

Several Miss-Lou residents said they are paying attention to this year’s election and plan to go to the polls Tuesday.

Sarah Barker of Natchez said she plans to vote Tuesday as she does in every election.

“I want to see a change, an improvement,” Barker said, adding she plans to vote in the Democrat primary but had not yet made up her mind who she will vote for. “I’m debating who to vote for.”

Issues Barker said she votes in every election and she intends to vote in Tuesday’s presidential primary election that also includes races for U.S. Representative, Third Congressional District and a U.S. Senate seat.

“I want my vote to count,” Barker said. “I want all kinds of changes and want to get rid of the guns with all the killings.”

Marianne Raley said she used to be one of those people who said her vote didn’t count.

That changed in the 1990s when she went back to get her education and was faced with enormous student loans and bills.

“That is when I began to get involved in politics and listening more closely,” Raley said. “And then I started voting.”

Raley has voted in every election since and plans to vote in Tuesday’s presidential primary.

Raley said although she knew there was an election Tuesday, she plans to learn more about the candidates on the ballot in the next couple of days.

“I don’t get information too far in advance, because it gets muddled. There is too much disinformation,” Raley said. “I have been avoiding politics on social media. You never know if what you are reading is true or not.”

Raley said she has been a Democrat “forever” because the Democratic Party aligns with many of her beliefs.

“Everybody has a responsibility to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, but we also have a responsibility to help people help themselves,” Raley said. “I will say, for the most part, this year I am voting right down the party line.”

Steve Joy, who lives in Adams County, also said he intends to vote in Tuesday’s presidential primary and he votes in every election.

“I will vote in the Republican primary,” Joy said. “I will stay with Michael Guest (for U.S. Rep. Third Congressional District) and Donald Trump for sure. He has done a good job, and we need to let him continue.”

Joy said he believes voting is important.

“We need to vote so we can keep legislators we need in order to keep our democratic society,” Joy said.

Larnell Franklin said he had not yet made up his mind on who he will vote for in Tuesday’s primary election but he is sure he will vote in the Democratic primary races.

“It’s tied between two people,” Franklin said of his choice for the Democratic Party primary. “I’m strictly a Democratic Party voter.”

Voting, Franklin said, is an obligation.

“I’ve had a lot of people who died so I could vote,” Franklin said. “I feel like it is my responsibility to keep up the Democracy.”

Joseph Rollins of Roxie said he does not know whether he will go to the polls on Tuesday but he voted for Donald Trump in the last presidential election.

Rollins said he did not like Hillary Clinton as a candidate but does not want to vote for Trump again this year.

“I usually vote the lesser of two evils, but I am a conservative,” Rollins said.

Although he lives in Vidalia, Patrick Landers keeps up with politics across the river because he works in Natchez.

Landers said keeping track of what is happening in politics locally and nationally is especially important to him.

“I vote every time the polls are open,” Landers said. “We have to get out and vote. As a veteran that is was I fought for.”

A veteran of the Panama Invasion and Operation Desert Storm, Landers describes himself as a conservative libertarian and a strong Trump supporter.

“I had a Trump Santa Claus in my front yard and a big ‘Vote Trump’ sign in my yard, too.” Landers said.

Landers said he keeps up with state and national politics with several apps on his phone, including Louisiana’s Geaux Vote app, which offers election results and other election-related information.

“I also watch the mainstream news and read a lot of articles online,” Landers said.

Louisiana’s presidential primary is April 4.