JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson announced a contingency plan for the November General Election amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Watson said his team is consulting with Election Commissioners and Circuit Clerks across the state.
Prior to Election Day, Watson announced the team will implement additional poll worker training regarding proper sanitation and social distancing. They will also work to offer the full training course online.
Due to the expected need for more poll workers, Election Commissioners are being asked to fully utilize the current student internship program. The team is also looking into potential partnerships with colleges and universities to incentivize students to work on Election Day.
The plan also includes asking the legislature to adopt an additional absentee excuse to allow Mississippians to absentee vote in person when they are subject to a state of emergency declared by the governor or president. Authorizing voters to vote in-person absentee when under a state of emergency will lead to Watson’s office partnering even closer with Circuit Clerks to possibly expand curbside absentee voting to help limit the spread of COVID-19 on Election Day.
Additionally, counties will be able to hire temporary staff to meet the increased demand by using funds from the CARES Act. The supplemental federal funding supports state and local election officials by offsetting some of the increased costs of administering elections during the pandemic.
I want Mississippians to understand this is not a ploy to implement early voting, but a temporary way to permit those who are most at risk of contracting COVID-19 a safe opportunity to exercise their right to vote.
Election Day itself will look a little different than usual, but I assure you the security of your vote and your wellness are our top priorities. We may consider temporary outdoor facilities if traditional polling locations are not available. By voting in an open-air environment, vulnerable populations would be safer, and it would ensure compliance with proper social distancing measures. Some of these measures include safe capacity limits, “one-in, one-out” lines, cleaning machines between each use, disposable marking devices for touch screens, and providing readily available sanitizing stations.
We also plan to make sure all poll workers have the necessary personal protective equipment and are in communication with our universities and private businesses about partnering to provide these resources.Michael Watson, Secretary of State