The high number of absentee ballots requested and returned completed through Wednesday morning point to “a record turnout for a midterm election,” Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said.

Hosemann, who met with the media in his Jackson office Wednesday to stress the importance of voting, said requests for absentee ballots are up across the state.

“Harrison and Jackson (counties) are up. The Delta is up. There doesn’t seem to be a geographic restriction to it,” said the Republican Hosemann, whose office oversees state elections.

He cited numbers showing that in the last mid-term in 2014 the number of absentee ballots requested totaled 25,395 compared to 50,571 during the same time period this year. The requests still fall far below a presidential year. In 2016, for example, voters requested 111,967 absentee ballots during the same time period.

Another indication of voter interest, Hosemann said, is new voter registrations compared to the last midterm year, in 2014.

Those numbers are:

  • 2018 – 31,745
  • 2016 – 49,446
  • 2014 – 10,271.

Mississippi does not have no excuse early voting. But people who cannot get to the polls between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Election Day for reasons, including job commitments, being out of town or in the hospital, are allowed to vote early.

The deadline to vote absentee in person at the local circuit clerk’s office is noon Saturday. Mail-in ballots must be returned to the circuit clerk’s office by 5 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 5.

Mississippians will go to polls Tuesday to elect two U.S. senators. Incumbent Republican Roger Wicker is running against Democrat David Baria in the regularly scheduled election. Third party candidates – Danny Bedwell, a Libertarian, and Shawn O’Hara, Reform Party candidate — also will be on the ballot.

A special Senate election also is being conducted to fill the vacancy left by the March retirement of long-time Sen. Thad Cochran for health reasons. Republican Cindy-Hyde Smith, appointed as Cochran’s interim replacement by Gov. Phil Bryant, is being challenged by fellow Republican Chris McDaniel and Democrats Mike Espy and Tobey Bartee. In the special election, the four candidates will appear on the same ballot with no party identification.

Conventional wisdom is that for Democrats to pull an upset there must be heavy turnout in traditionally Democratic counties, such as in the Mississippi Delta and Hinds County where Jackson is located.

To boost enthusiasm, GOP bloody each other as Dems look to younger voters, black turnout

In Washington, one of the larger Delta counties, through Wednesday morning 817 absentee ballots had been requested and 643 had been returned. Hinds, the state’s most populous county, had requested the most absentee ballots – 2,740 with 1,181 returned.

Thus far, of the 50,571 absentee ballots requested statewide, 39,616 of them had been completed and returned.

Generally, between 4 percent and 5 percent of the total people voting in a Mississippi election do so by absentee ballot, Hosemann said. Using those numbers, based on the number of absentee ballots returned, a little less than 800,000 people will vote Tuesday. But the number of absentee ballots completed and returned is expected to grow significantly before the deadline.

In past elections, the drop off between the number of people voting in presidential elections vs. mid-term elections has been substantial. For instance, in the 2014 mid-term 631,858 people voted compared to 1.21 million in the 2016 presidential election.

Hosemann urged people to vote, saying his recent trip to the Middle East to meet with Mississippi military reservists stationed throughout the region re-enforced his passion for voting.

“If any of you had  been with me,” on the Middle Eastern trip, “not one of you would not cast a ballot after seeing what they do, their professionalism,” he said.

The four congressional seats also will be on the ballot Tuesday as well as judicial candidates.

2018 Mississippi Voting by District

Hosemann cited interest in the election “to the issues and candidates.” He pointed out President Donald Trump had been to the state to campaign for Hyde-Smith and Wicker and that issues related to the economy and other factors are driving interest.

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Bobby Harrison, Mississippi Today’s senior capitol reporter, covers politics, government and the Mississippi State Legislature. He also writes a weekly news analysis which is co-published in newspapers statewide. A native of Laurel, Bobby joined our team June 2018 after working for the North Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo since 1984. He is president of the Mississippi Capitol Press Corps Association and works with the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute to organize press luncheons. Bobby has a bachelor's in American Studies from the University of Southern Mississippi and has received multiple awards from the Mississippi Press Association, including the Bill Minor Best Investigative/In-depth Reporting and Best Commentary Column.