With only 90 days left until Nov. 3, the Washington County Election Commission is gearing up for Election Day and were paid a visit by Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson on Tuesday to talk about all things voting.
Watson’s visit comes as part of his 82-County Tour to build strong relationships, discuss voting related issues and gauge ideas to help strengthen the election process as a whole.
“What are the things that we can do to help?” was the secretary’s first question for the commission and his second was, “What are the things that I need to know as Secretary of State?”
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District 1 election commissioner Jacqueline Thompson and District 4’s Sadie Seard shared their concerns with Watson as they did with the Washington County Board of Supervisors at Monday’s regular meeting.
The WCBS voted unanimously in authorizing the election commission to hire its own attorney after listening to the concerns of the commission.
“The thing we’ve been dealing with is a lot of people have been made ‘inactive,” Thompson said as it pertains to voter registration status.
Thompson said as of Monday, 3,618 is the number of “inactive” voters in the county.
She shared the name of a voter in inactive status will not appear in the poll book, and therefore, cannot vote electronically or on the voting machines.
A voter in inactive status may vote only by affidavit ballot, and the ballot should be counted if the voter affirms he or she lives at an address in the precinct in which the affidavit ballot is cast.”
Seard attributed “triggering events” possibly being one of the issues such as the import of National Change of Address (NCOA) files from the U.S. Postal Service or returned jury summons or other official mail.
Thompson said she and the rest of the commission have been working diligently to try and get people back active and making sure they reside in the addresses on file or if they’ve moved, so it can be verified.
Notices have and are being sent out and phone calls are being made to inform residents of their status, Thompson said.
However, “bulks” of mail are being returned to the commission — a problem the commission has had quite frequently and prompted their request for assistance from the USPS.
Watson said in response such circumstances are “a mess” and further complicates mail-in voting and the significant piece for absentee voting.
“We’ve got some issues on our hands, no doubt,” he said.
Watson posed the question, “What’s been the challenge for the commissioners in dealing with voting rolls and making sure they’re clean and accurate?”
Commissioners for all districts are of the consensus that the problem is the returned mail and residents wanting to avoid serving on a jury, which yields an inactive voter status.
Seard said she is of the opinion that the jury summons should not be the main reason why someone is made “inactive.”
“I would love to see them being able to vote on the machines,” she said. “It would eliminate a lot of anger from some voters.”
District 2 election commissioner Sandra Reed told Watson she thinks if they can solve the problem now, before the election, it would help when people come in to know if they’re on the voting roll.
“I just want to get people excited about voting again,” she said.
Washington County residents can check their voting status on the Secretary of State’s website at msegov.com/sos/voter_registration/amiregistered/Search.