Mississippi’s political parties are turning up the get out the vote effort with the state’s voter registration deadline looming Saturday.
As that deadline approaches, campaigns and their associated parties are doing everything they can to get their voters registered and enthused to show up at the voting booth on election day, Nov. 8.
The 2012 presidential election brought the highest turnout of recent statewide contests as 66.8% of the 1,924,080 registered voters cast ballots. The highest turnout is generally seen in presidential election years.
In comparison, turnout in the statewide gubernatorial elections brought 893,458 voters in 2011 (48.5% of registered voters) and dropped to 718,185 (39%) in 2015.
“Voter turnout is a top priority,” Jennifer Dunagin, communications director for Mississippi Republican Party, said in a statement. “In an election this critical and unpredictable, we’re not taking anything for granted.”
Dunagin said the party is focused on getting Republicans registered before the deadline and passing out material from the Donald Trump campaign.
The state GOP is also organizing some state supporters into a chapter of the Mighty American Strike Force. This group of volunteers will travel to swing states to support Donald Trump in his bid for the White House and Republican U.S. House and Senate candidates.
“We want to make sure Donald Trump not only wins Mississippi by a large margin, but that our other Republican candidates are victorious in November, here in Mississippi, and in key swing states,” Dunagin wrote.
For Nathan Shrader, an assistant professor of political science at Millsaps College, the Republican party will be working to double down on the political infrastructure they already control.
“They’ve gotten to the point where they have this super majority. They’ve got a significant lead in the Senate; they’ve got a significant lead in the House. They’ve got all statewide elected positions but one,” Shrader said. “(Republicans) not trying to win more seats. When you’ve got your numbers that are that healthy, you are playing the maintenance game. (They are) trying to keep all of (their) various factions in the party happy because you are trying to make sure you don’t lose those seats.”
“What I’ll be looking for is how they hold that coalition,” he continued. “When those fractures take place, how serious are they in the long run.”
The Mississippi Democratic Party’s field director, Jacqueline Amos, said in an interview that Democrats are focused on the entire pool of potential voters.
“We are coordinating county-by-county voter registration drives, but more than anything, we are working towards not just registering those voters but reregistering our voters who have moved — because you have to vote where you live,” Amos said. “We are working on getting voters registered in the correct location so that there are no discrepancies when they arrive on election day.”
Amos said that Democrats are targeting the 18 to 44 age population, traditionally a group with low turnout, as well as the Fourth congressional district and large portions of the Second congressional district. The party is also raising volunteers to make calls for the Clinton campaign in states like Florida.
“This election is very important,” Amos said, “but at the same time, my focus is more towards (20)17, 18 and 19. This is kind of a stepping stone. We need a high voter turnout. We need higher than a President Obama turnout to secure things. That’s what we are working on. “
Kenneth Townsend, an assistant professor of political science at Millsaps College, said this year’s election in Mississippi is probably not in the cards for the Democratic party.
“Democrats have to play the long game in Mississippi because there is not a short game to play,” Townsend said. “None of this is really up in the air — not to minimize down ticket elections for judges, but none of this is going to dramatically reshape the state.”
Townsend said that this long term strategy could pay off down the line: “Democrats have to be thinking about the longer term and that might sound like that is just an excuse for when things aren’t going their way, but I actually do think that Democrats have a possible future in Mississippi. The fact of the matter is you have close to 40 percent of the state that is black. If black voters remain statistically Democratic, then all it takes is 20 percent of the white population to vote democratic and Mississippi is a swing state.”
Townsend said that though it is a long shot, “I don’t think it is quite as crazy as you might think.”
Important days leading up to election night:
- Voter registration ends Oct. 8
- Early Voting/in person absentee voting ends Nov. 5
- Absentee ballot return deadline by mail Nov. 7
- General Election Day is Nov. 8
- Absentee ballot return deadline Nov. 9
- If a runoff is called, it will be on Nov. 29