By Brian Perry
If you want to vote in this year’s election but you haven’t registered to vote in Mississippi, it is too late. The deadline passed Oct. 8.
If you are one of the 1.8 million active, registered Mississippi voters – and particularly one of the more than 8,200 new active, registered voters since this time last year – here are a few things to know.
You don’t have to vote in every race – or even any race – on the ballot. It isn’t unusual for voters to skip races when candidates are unopposed or if they don’t know anything about the candidates.
Doing so does not invalidate your ballot. In fact, if you want to register a protest vote against everybody running for every office you can sign in, take your ballot, not vote for anyone and submit it. I recommend researching your local ballot and making your voice heard in every race.
If you do a “write-in” vote it is counted like you didn’t vote on that race at all. The only time “write-in” votes count in Mississippi is if someone on the ballot in that race has died.
In 2010, two judicial seats were decided by “write-in” votes when the candidates for each – Circuit Judge Robert Evans and Chancery Judge James Thomas Jr. – died after the qualifying deadline when both were unopposed for re-election.
Evans died before the ballots were printed so his name was removed and the race was completely “write-in” with District Attorney Eddie Bowen making and then winning the run-off, after he was appointed to the vacant position before the election.
Thomas died after the ballots were prepared and despite his condition, won re-election over all the “write-in” ballots combined. As he could not fill the seat, his vacancy was filled through gubernatorial appointment.
You don’t actually vote for president and vice president. You vote for a slate of electors you trust will vote according to your wishes in the Electoral College. There was a time when the names of electors were actually printed on the ballot for your review. Now you vote for “electors” pledged to those candidates.
The electors of the candidate who wins the most votes in Mississippi will meet at the state Capitol on Dec. 19 (the Monday after the second Wednesday in December) to formally cast Mississippi’s six votes, which will be officially counted in a joint session of congress the first week of January with Vice President Joe Biden presiding.
Candidates are listed on the ballot in a two-tier alphabetical fashion. The statewide sample ballot approved by the state Board of Elections Commissioners (governor, secretary of state, attorney general) lists candidates from the two major parties first, in alphabetical order of the candidate’s last name.
Then all minor parties or independents are listed in alphabetical order according to the candidate’s last name after those top two. Nonpartisan elections are straight alphabetical.
You can be a permanent resident of another country but still vote for president of the United States from Mississippi. An American citizen living in another country – even permanently – still gets to vote for president. But in which state would that vote be counted?
There are various ways to claim a state but if your last residence in the United States before leaving the country was Mississippi, you can vote absentee for president as a Mississippian (if you registered to do so).
Other important races will be on your Mississippi ballot. Every ballot in Mississippi will not only have the presidential election on the ballot but also a congressional race, at least one Mississippi Supreme Court race and county election commissioners.
Depending on where you live, you may also have a race for the Mississippi Court of Appeals, a special local judicial election, levee commissioners or school board officials. There are also two special legislative elections: one in House District 89 to replace Rep. Bobby Shows (R), who retired, and another in House District 106 to replace Rep. Herb Frierson (R), who was appointed commissioner of revenue.
Will there be any runoff elections? Quite likely one of the Northern District Supreme Court races will head to a runoff, possibly a Court of Appeals race and maybe one or both special legislative elections as well. Any runoff election would be held Nov. 29.
You can vote now. Absentee balloting has begun and continues through Nov. 5 for in-person voting and received by Nov. 7 for mail-in absentees. But you can’t vote absentee just because you want to, unless you are 65 or older.
There are a number of ways to qualify to vote absentee: you’ll be at work during the election, away from your county on election day, you have a temporary or permanent physical disability, you’re a congressman or work for one, and more. Consult your circuit clerk for details.
Brian Perry is a columnist for the Madison County Journal and a partner with Capstone Public Affairs LLC. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @CapstonePerry on Twitter.