Absentee voting off to strong, smooth start

September 29th, 2020     Government & Politics

Absentee voting for the Nov. 3 election has begun in Union County and Circuit Clerk Phyllis Stanford said it is going smoothly.

“They have been very cooperative,” she said of those who have come to her office, and few voters have had questions.

As of Monday, 208 absentee ballots had been requested and 60 of them accepted back in Stanford’s office. “We’re just getting the first of them back in the mail today,” she said.

There is still some confusion about the proposed constitutional amendment on medical marijuana because of the voting choices and at least one voter has come to the office and requested an absentee ballot by mail, requiring it to be notarized before being returned, even though the person could easily have voted right then in person.

In addition to the elective offices, the ballot will include voting on a state flag and possibly removing an archaic rule governing state elections as well as legalizing use of marijuana for certain medical purposes.

Because the marijuana issue is somewhat more complex, the Secretary of State’s office is hosting public hearings on that initiative in each congressional district.

The hearing for this area will be Wednesday, Sept. 30, at The Ford Center at Ole Miss at 351 University Ave. The doors open at 5 p.m. with the hearing to begin at 5:30 with COVID-19 precautions.

Briefly, Initiative Measure No. 65 proposes to amend the Mississippi Constitution to allow qualified patients with debilitating medical conditions, as certified by Mississippi licensed physicians, to use medical marijuana. This amendment would allow medical marijuana to be provided only by licensed treatment centers. The Mississippi State Department of Health would regulate and enforce the provisions of this amendment.​

Alternative Measure #65A is proposed as a legislative alternative measure to Initiative Measure No. 65 and would establish a program to allow the medical use of marijuana products by qualified persons with debilitating medical conditions.

A brochure with statements from those both supporting and opposing each alternative is available on the Mississippi Secretary of State’s website.

Voters have the opportunity to express two different preferences concerning the marijuana initiative.

First, one may vote for either 65 or 65A, or against both 65 and 65A. The second separate preference is to choose 65 or 65A, assuming they pass in the first choice. If a majority votes against both 65 and 65A in the first part, the issue is dead (but, curiously perhaps, the votes in the second part are still counted and announced). If a majority votes for one or the other in the first part of the ballot, then whichever gets a majority in the second part, 65 or 65A, becomes law if the winning choice also gets at least 40 percent of the total vote cast in the election.

If you vote against both 65 and 65A in the first part, you don’t have to vote in the second part for your ballot to be valid.

That’s the way state law works when an initiative is proposed, but the legislature doesn’t like it and wants to propose an alternative.

One other technicality that people often don’t notice, and that usually doesn’t matter, is that you will not vote for a presidential candidate. You will vote for an elector who theoretically will vote for that designated candidate in the Electoral College. Also, you probably will not recognize the names of four or five, at least, of the presidential candidates on the ballot representing what are considered to be third parties.

In Mississippi, all the presidential electors are given to the candidate who wins a plurality in the state (the selection of party delegates to state and national conventions can be more complicated, however).

Mississippi has only six electoral votes and tends to vote in a predictable manner, so the state has little influence in presidential elections (California has 55, Florida and New York have 29 each and Texas has 38, for instance).

To win the presidency, a candidate must receive at least 270 electoral votes.

Dates to remember

Monday, Oct. 5, at 5 p.m. is the deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 3 election, or to update registration information if you have changed your address or legal name.

Stanford will have her office open this Saturday, Oct. 3, from 8 a.m. until noon for the convenience of those who want to register or are qualified to vote absentee ballots and cannot do so during the week when the office is normally open.

Not having updated registration information to match your ID could lead to a delay in voting and possibly even the vote’s being rejected, although you do have an opportunity to verify information in a specific time.

While there are about a dozen exemptions to qualify for voting an absentee ballot in the circuit clerk’s office, one can only get a mail-in ballot if he or she is 65 or older (your ballot must be notarized), is temporarily or permanently disabled, will be away from the area during voting hours (the ballot will be sent to the away address) or either is under a physician-imposed COVID-19 quarantine or caring for someone who is under such a quarantine.

Of course an approved photo ID is still required when voting.

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