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Facial masks ‘strongly urged’ for voters in Tuesday’s Natchez primary

NATCHEZ — A requirement for voters to wear facial masks or some sort of facial covering to be able to vote in Tuesday’s Natchez Municipal primary election has been waived, and instead voters are strongly urged to wear some sort of facial coverings.

The City of Natchez COVID-19 Task Force met Monday and after concerns were raised about enforcement of the facial mask requirement, Task Force members decided to lift the requirement.

Prompting the decision, Municipal Election Commission Chairman Larry Gardner said, was Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves’ latest executive order that went into effect Monday and does not require people to wear facial masks in public.

Poll workers will be required to wear masks and voters are strongly urged to wear masks, Gardner said, adding the strong urging is because many poll workers are elderly, retired and are volunteers.

Masks will protect the voters and the poll workers, Gardner said.

“We can’t insist on it, but we still need to keep poll workers safe,” Gardner said. “They have concerns.”

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Tuesday and Natchez voters will vote for Democratic Party nominees for Natchez Mayor, and Democratic candidates in wards 1, 4 and 6.

Other special COVID-19 requirements will still be in effect for Tuesday’s voting, including having a picture identification card ready to show poll workers and bailiffs will be standing at entries to polling places to limit the number of people entering at one time to meet social distancing requirements.

During Monday’s task force meeting, Ward 4 Alderwoman Felicia Bridgewater Irving said some residents had raised concerns about picture identifications.

“Is there another form of ID that can be used?” Irving said, adding that some people’s IDs had expired and they were not able to renew them during the COVID-19 pandemic due to the Mississippi Driver’s License Bureau offices having been closed.

Natchez City Clerk Servia Fortenberry said licenses that have expired could still be used

The expired ID can still be used “as long as it is an acceptable form of photo ID and is not more than 10 years old,” according to the Mississippi Secretary of State’s voter ID page at msvoterid.ms.gov. “The expired ID must contain the name and photograph of the voter, and have been validly issued by the federal or a state government.”

Other acceptable forms of photo identification include those issued by a branch; department or entity of the State of Mississippi, a U.S. passport; a government employee identification card; a firearms license; a student photo ID issued by an accredited Mississippi university; college or community/junior college; a U.S. military ID; a tribal photo ID; any other ID issued by any branch, department, agency or entity of the United States government or any state government; a Mississippi Voter Identification Card.

“If a registered voter does not have any of those acceptable forms of photo ID, a Mississippi Voter Identification Card is available at no cost to the voter at any circuit clerk’s office in Mississippi,” according to msvoterid.ms.gov.

Also, if a voter has forgotten to bring photo identification to the polling place, the voter can cast an affidavit ballot but must go to City Hall within five working days to show proper photo identification, Gardner said.

Also, curbside voting is available at polling places for voters who have mobility problems, Gardner said.

Other COVID-19 guidelines for Tuesday’s election:

* People will be required to maintain 6-feet of distance from others while voting and entrance to the building will be limited due to the capacity of each precinct

* Have a photo identification card handy when entering the building so you can easily show it to the poll workers

* On sign in poll workers will give voters disposable pens to sign in with and then the pens can be discarded or taken home and kept by the voter to keep people from using the same pen

* Poll workers also will provide a stylus to be used on the touch screen voting machines, rather than touching the screen with fingers. The stylus should be discarded after use