Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said Monday that voter turnout was down 76,000 in the state for this year’s presidential election.
The raw vote declined from 1,285,584 in 2012 to 1,209,357 this year, Hosemann said. He said that the decrease was hard to peg to any one change.
“I looked at the counties and in some counties that are normally more Republican, you had less votes,” Hosemann said. “It’s hard to tell. There may have been more contested elections locally for example — a hotter House race or something like that.”
A positive for Hosemann: 99.9 percent of voters carried acceptable photo IDs with them to the polls on Election Day. Since voter identification laws were passed in the state, there has been criticism suggesting that the additional barrier could depress voter turnout in the state.
Polling had suggested an easy win for Republican Donald Trump in the state and the final results saw him getting 60 percent of the Mississippi vote.
Trump carried the Gulf Coast Region handily, as well as much of north Mississippi, including heavily populated DeSoto County. The Delta remained mostly blue for Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Despite both Trump and Gov. Phil Bryant’s pre-vote prognostication of a “rigged election,” Hosemann was excited to report no major issues and noted the absence of Department of Justice election observers. According to Hosemann, observers had been present in the state since the Voting Act of 1965.
Hosemann pointed to the absence of election observers as acknowledgement of the state’s progress:
“The United States Justice Department sent out 500 different (election) observers across our country,” Hosemann said. “Twenty-eight states had observers in them but not Mississippi. Some of those states — Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut — you get my drift. Many of the other states that were also in the Voting Rights Act of 1965 had observers in them but not Mississippi.”
Hosemann said that collaborating across the aisle on regulations regarding the election was key to the election’s relative adroitness.
“We invited everyone, Republicans and Democrats to get in a room with the election commissioners and the board of supervisors and the circuit clerks and the special interest groups and the League of Women Voters (prior to the election),” he said.
“We got them all in, and we spent months drafting regulations and in the end every single one of them supported this. That’s the recipe for how Mississippi goes forward,” Hosemann said. “The fact that you can take the aggregate intellect, put them in a room, and come up with a common sense solution.”
Of all the calls that came in Election Day, the majority came from people asking for information regarding their voting precinct and eligibility to vote.
“We had some calls from people saying, ‘I’ve been on the rolls forever. I’ve always voted here. Why am I not on the rolls now?'” Hosemann said. “Well, let me give you a leading reason for that. The clerks send out a request for a jury pool. Now they send out thousands of these by mail every time we have trials in Mississippi.
“When you don’t send that (response) a requisite number of times, they take you off the the voter rolls,” he said. “The answer: don’t ignore circuit clerks’ mail. Show up for jury.”
Overall, the Secretary of State was proud to have had an uneventful election.
“Mississippi turned a page in its voting history this past Nov. 8, and those in Mississippi ought to be very proud of what you do,” Hosemann said. “There are a lot of people that worked at it: circuit clerks, election commissioners, our staff. But in the end, it was Mississippi voters. It’s the voters that turned that page.”