On the last day to do so, voters waited patiently in long lines to cast their absentee ballots Saturday at the Hinds County Courthouse in downtown Jackson on Oct. 31, 2020. Credit: Vickie D. King/Mississippi Today

Welcome to The Homestretch, a daily blog featuring the most comprehensive coverage of the 2023 Mississippi governor’s race. This page, curated by the Mississippi Today politics team, will feature the biggest storylines of the 2023 governor’s race at 7 a.m. every day between now and the Nov. 7 election.

Just a week out from Tuesday’s general election, the number of absentee ballots requested by Mississippi voters is less than 69% of those requested last statewide election cycle.

Low absentee balloting typically portends a low turnout for an election.

In 2019, voters requested 52,380 absentee ballots, and a little over 48,000 were cast and counted.

As of Monday, Oct. 30, only 35,946 absentee ballots had been requested.

A look across Mississippi’s 82 counties shows 10 counties at or above their number of requested ballots four years ago, but most are well below, including some larger counties. For instance, Hinds County was at 80% of the previous election’s numbers and Forrest was at 76%. Rankin and Jackson counties were at 59%. Jones County was at 55%, Hancock at 53% and Simpson was at 45%.

Counties with high absentee requests so far include Sunflower County with 223%; Humphreys with 138%, DeSoto with 138%, and Harrison with 133%. Madison County was at 97% of absentees compared to the previous statewide election.

The lowest numbers were in George and Quitman counties, each at 32%, Smith at 22%, and Tallahatchie and Issaquena counties at 19% each.

Some of the low absentee interest can be chalked up to a lack of competitive races down-ticket from gubernatorial. The other seven statewide office races are not considered competitive, and many legislative and local races were determined during the primary.

The August primary in Mississippi saw the lowest turnout since 2007, according to the secretary of state’s office, with just 30% of registered voters casting ballots.

Voters can cast an absentee ballot in person at their local circuit clerk’s office through Saturday, Nov. 4. These offices will be open Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon for final in-person absentees.

Those returning absentee ballots by mail must have them postmarked by Nov. 7. Mississippi’s process for applying for, receiving and returning an absentee ballot by mail is rather arduous and time consuming and has likely run out for those who haven’t already applied for one. The process can be found here.

Headlines From The Trail

Gov. Tate Reeves’ top political donors received $1.4 billion in state contracts from his agencies

Solar company’s donations to Brandon Presley appear legal. But should he have accepted them?

Brandon Presley raised $5 million more than Tate Reeves this election cycle

List: See who has donated to Tate Reeves

List: See who has donated to Brandon Presley

Why some Democrats are approaching Brandon Presley’s momentum with caution

Democrat Brandon Presley seeks big turnout in Nov. 7 bid to unseat Mississippi’s Republican governor

Candidate profile: One-on-one with Tate Reeves

Reeves, Presley make campaign return to DeSoto County

What We’re Watching

1) Donald Trump endorsed Tate Reeves, the Reeves campaign announced on Tuesday night, Mississippi Today’s Taylor Vance reports. The endorsement likely gives the incumbent governor a needed boost less than a week from the election. The Trump endorsement is a marked contrast to Trump’s involvement in Reeves’ 2019 campaign for governor. Just five days before the November 2019 election between Reeves and Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood, then-President Trump flew to Tupelo for a rally in a key battleground region of the state.

2) Ground game/GOTV. At this stage in the election cycle, there are fewer undecided voters to sway. Campaigns are shifting focus to getting their supporters out to the polls. This requires manpower and shoe leather, hundreds of paid staffers and volunteers getting out, knocking on doors, manning phone banks and getting people out to vote.

3) Democrat Brandon Presley has outraised Republican Gov. Tate Reeves by more than $5 million to date in the 2023 statewide election cycle, according to campaign finance reports filed on Tuesday night. This is incredibly notable given Reeves’ political fundraising prowess. Mississippi Today’s Taylor Vance has the story.

DON’T MISS: The first and only debate between Reeves and Presley will be broadcast tonight, Nov. 1. If you’re in the Jackson metro area, come to Hal & Mal’s for a free Mississippi Today watch party. Doors open at 6 p.m., we’ll stream the debate live at 7 p.m. on the big screen, and we’ll host a few minutes of live analysis as soon as it ends. Click this link for more information and to register. We hope to see you there!

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Geoff Pender serves as senior political reporter, working closely with Mississippi Today leadership on editorial strategy and investigations. Pender brings 30 years of political and government reporting experience to Mississippi Today. He was political and investigative editor at the Clarion Ledger, where he also penned a popular political column. He previously served as an investigative reporter and political editor at the Sun Herald, where he was a member of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team for Hurricane Katrina coverage. Originally from Florence, Mississippi, Pender is a journalism graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi and has received numerous awards throughout his career for reporting, columns and freedom of information efforts.