Mississippi absentee voting strong compared to past presidential primaries

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Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today, Report For America

A voter walks into Twin Lakes Baptist Church in Madison, Miss., Tuesday, November 5, 2019.

Democratic absentee ballots for Tuesday’s party primaries are far outpacing those requested during the last two contested presidential primaries in the state, according to information from the Mississippi Secretary of State’s office.

Democratic absentee ballots requested before lunch Monday, which is election eve, totaled 14,107 and 11,458 had been returned. In 2008, 5,195 people voted absentee in the Democratic primary while 6,921 did in 2016.

Often times, election watchers view the number of people voting absentee as an indicator of overall turnout. But that was not the case in 2008 when absentee voting was low but the contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama set a record that still stands as the largest turnout in the state’s history for a presidential primary of either party.

Just more than 434,000 people voted in the 2008 Clinton-Obama primary. In 2016, about 416,000 voted in the Republican primary when Donald Trump was on the ballot.

People over the age of 65, the disabled and those who will be away from home Election Day can vote absentee in Mississippi. Until noon Saturday, people could vote in person in the local circuit clerk’s offices. Mail-in ballots had to be returned to the clerks’ office by 5 p.m. Monday. The Secretary of State’s office will not have the numbers before the election of the absentee ballots received in the mail Monday afternoon.

Democrat voters will be going to the polls to select their preference for president. The top two contenders remaining are former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Three candidates also will be on the Democrat ballot vying for the U.S. Senate nomination and the right to challenge incumbent Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith in the November general election. Mike Espy, a former U.S. House member and former secretary of agriculture, is running for the U.S. Senate post again after losing a hard- fought contest to Hyde-Smith in 2018 when they were running to replace long-time Sen. Thad Cochran who stepped down for health reasons. Espy will be challenged on the Democrat ballot for senator by Tobey Bartee and Jensen Borhen.

All four congressional seats also will be up for election this year.

On the Republican side, 10,147 absentee ballots had been requested and 8,857 had been returned by noon Monday even though Hyde-Smith is unopposed and Trump is not expected to have serious Republican opposition in his re-election bid.

Who’s on the ballot for Mississippi’s March 10 primary?

Sanders and Biden will be vying for 36 delegates Tuesday in Mississippi. To qualify for delegates, a candidate must win at least 15 percent of the vote statewide or at least 15 percent in individual congressional districts. A recent poll by Data for Progress, identified as a Democratic pollster, showed Biden with a 55-percentage point lead in Mississippi.

Mississippi is one of six states holding primaries Tuesday.

Mississippi has more than 1.9 million registered voters and a voting-age population of about 2.2 million, according to information provided in the past by the Secretary of State’s office.

(Correction: The number of states voting in the March 10 primaries was incorrect in an earlier version of this story. Six states are going to the polls: Mississippi, Idaho, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota and Washington.)