HINDS COUNTY, Miss. (WJTV) – All eyes are on the polls this year with how to balance an election with social distancing guidelines to fight COVID-19?
As the primary polls wrap up the Secretary of State and legislators have five months to make-up a checklist to hold fair elections without risking anyone’s health.
If we all wanted to stay home, Secretary of State Michael Watson doesn’t see it possible for Mississippi to hold a broad vote by mail system.
“We have 36 counties that have 90% or higher of their voting-age population showing as registered voters,” Secretary Watson said. “What that tells us is they may not be doing their job cleaning their voter rolls. It’s hard to start that conversation without having confidence in our voter rolls.”
Using CARES Act funds, it’s up to legislation leadership if COVID-19 concerns can count as temporary vulnerability excuses for some to vote through the mail.
I’ve got a proposal that was presented just this week that is being considered,” Speaker of the House Phillip Gunn said. “And when I left the Capitol a minute ago, they were discussing how much money to put towards that so the elections can be conducted in a safe manner.”
In the meantime, Secretary Watson had to resort to a back-up plan after shipments were slow to come in for PPE and hand sanitizer to every precinct open for Tuesday’s runoff races.
“We had folks driving all over the second congressional district, Jones County, Jasper County their clerks came up and picked theirs up,” Secretary Watson stated. “And we had legislators that took there’s to their home district, so it worked out well.”
Once at the precinct everyone is required to wear a mask and stay six feet apart. In the end, officials hope the pandemic doesn’t keep any voter from getting heard.
“They’re not using pens, they made me take the pen that I used,” Speaker Gunn added. “They provided masks for us to use so I think they’re doing a great job.”
“That’s my right to do it and I need to do it for the people,” Clinton voter Annie Johnson told us. “And if you have a right to do it you need to do it.”
By November there may be new polling location changes due to the coronavirus keeping facilities closed off to the public. For those updates visit our website WJTV.com.