One week from election day, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann called a press conference to reassure voters yet again that this year’s election will not be tampered with.
“Mississippi’s elections are not rigged,” Hosemann said, “and will not be rigged a week from today.”
Allegations of voter fraud from Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump means state officials are under extra scrutiny this election year. Just last week Gov. Phil Bryant echoed the allegation to Paul Gallo on Supertalk radio calling the election “rigged.”
Hosemann explained to reporters that the voting booths that the state uses are not linked to the the internet. He likened them to calculators, only able to count-up what has been put in.
“For the last time, voting machines are not linked to the internet,” Hosemann said. “The Russians are not going to steal your vote. I laughed with my circuit clerks the other day that we are going to send a bunch of pictures of Putin out to all the election officers and tell them to ‘Watch for that guy.’ ”
Hosemann also reminded voters that it is illegal to shoot a selfie inside the voting booth. State lawmakers passed legislation prohibiting the practice out of concern that people could use selfies to confirm votes for a certain candidate for monetary rewards.
“Despite what Justin Timberlake does, we don’t do selfies in Mississippi,” Hosemann said. Timberlake recently took a selfie in a voting booth in Memphis to encourage voting. Tennessee, like Mississippi, has a law prohibiting the practice.
The Secretary of State said that they had some incidences where people who cast absentee ballots leading up to the election had called in wanting to change their ballot. Voters who want to change the vote they made through their absentee ballot can go to their voting precinct on election day to nullify their absentee vote and cast anew, he said.
“All of that stuff is, to me, dampening the fact that we have to elect the President of the United States,” he said. “Go to the polls, that’s who will elect them. The one that goes to the polls.”
State law and the National Voter Registration Act place maintenance of voter rolls in the hands of the five elected election commissioner of each county. Those commissions are responsible for organizing precincts in their counties.
The responsibility means making sure voting booths are in working order, there are enough paper ballets to go around, and appointing the state mandated minimum of three poll managers who help run each precinct.
According to Toni Jo Diaz, district one election commissioner of Harrison County, it’s a year-round job. One of her most important jobs is the purging of voter records.
“We have to search for these people,” Diaz said. “If we can’t find them, we have to send a voter notification card. Put them in as inactive and wait for that card to come back.”
“If that card comes back still with an undeliverable address for whatever reason, we have to hold that card for at least two years,” she noted. “It’s really a four-year process for two consecutive federal elections to purge.”
If a voter has been inactive for two consecutive federal elections, than commissioners can purge the name from the voter roll without written notice from the voter or the secretary of state’s office. To avoid purging active voter names accidentally, Diaz said that there is a 90-day hold period before the election that prevents systematic purging.
There are a few other methods for purging names from the voter rolls:
• If a voter sends commissioners a notice that they have moved out of the county, then the commission can vote to remove the voter’s name.
• If the secretary of state sends the commission notice that a person has re-registered in another county or another state, than the commission can vote to remove them from the voting rolls.
• If notice has been provided that the person is deceased, then they are purged from the rolls, she said.
“I take care of my district,” Diaz said, “but we work on everybody’s district. We do this together, and we take a vote on it. Should this person be purged? So forth and so on.”
“Elections are human y’all,” Hosemann said. “It’s a human endeavor. It will not be perfect, but we are trying our dead-level best to have it better than 99.7 percent.”
“Our election is not rigged in Mississippi,” Hosemann continued. “We’ve worked too hard. Too many bailiffs. Too many people working on this, including the circuit clerk and election commissioners who are elected.”