MISSISSIPPI LEGISLATURE

1998 Regular Session

To: Apportionment and Elections

By: Representatives Dedeaux, Reynolds

House Bill 415

AN ACT TO ESTABLISH A SYSTEM OF EARLY VOTING FOR ANY PRIMARY OR GENERAL ELECTION; TO PROVIDE THAT EARLY VOTING WILL BE MADE AVAILABLE BEGINNING THE FIRST TUESDAY AFTER THE FIRST MONDAY IN THE MONTH IMMEDIATELY PRECEDING THE MONTH IN WHICH THE PRIMARY OR GENERAL ELECTION IS HELD AND CONTINUING THROUGH THE CLOSE OF THE BUSINESS DAY ON THE DAY IMMEDIATELY PRECEDING THE REGULAR ELECTION DAY; TO PROVIDE THAT THE CIRCUIT CLERK SHALL PROVIDE ONE OR MORE EARLY VOTERS' POLLING PLACES; TO REQUIRE THAT AT LEAST TWO ELECTION MANAGERS BE PROVIDED FOR EACH EARLY VOTERS' POLLING PLACE FOR EACH PRIMARY ELECTION; TO PROVIDE THAT THE ELECTION MANAGERS FOR EARLY VOTERS' POLLING PLACES IN A PRIMARY ELECTION SHALL BE CHOSEN BY THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF EACH POLITICAL PARTY; TO PROVIDE THAT ANY POLITICAL PARTY OR CANDIDATE ENTITLED TO HAVE POLL WATCHERS AT POLLING PLACE SHALL HAVE THE RIGHT TO MAINTAIN ONE POLL WATCHER AT THE EARLY VOTERS' POLLING PLACE; TO PROVIDE THAT PERSONS VOTING BY EARLY VOTERS' BALLOT MAY BE CHALLENGED IN THE SAME MANNER AS OTHER VOTERS ARE CHALLENGED ON ELECTION DAY; TO PROVIDE THAT BALLOT BOXES FOR EARLY VOTING SHALL BE LOCKED AND SEALED EACH NIGHT WITH A NUMBERED SEAL UNDER THE SUPERVISION OF THE ELECTION MANAGERS; TO AMEND SECTIONS, 23-15-11, 23-15-353 AND 23-15-363, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, IN CONFORMITY THERETO; TO AMEND SECTION 23-15-627, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO DELETE CERTAIN CRITERIA FOR VOTING BY ABSENTEE BALLOT; TO AMEND SECTION 23-15-713, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, IN CONFORMITY THERETO; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES. 

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:

SECTION 1. Early voting shall be made available by the circuit clerk to any eligible elector beginning on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in the month immediately preceding the month in which any primary or general election is held and continuing through the close of the regular business day on the day immediately preceding the regular election day, excluding Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays. However, the county election commissioners may increase the hours that the early voters' polling place may be open. Qualified voters who appear in person at the early voters' polling place during this time may cast their ballots in the same manner as any ballot would be cast in a precinct polling place on election day.

SECTION 2. Each circuit clerk shall provide one (1) or more early voters' polling places, each of which shall be accessible to persons with disabilities and which shall be provided with ballot boxes or voting machines, and other necessary supplies as provided by law for precinct polling places. In the event the circuit clerk determines that the number of early voters' polling places is insufficient due to the number of eligible electors who are voting by early ballot, the circuit clerk may establish additional early voters' polling places for the convenience of eligible electors wishing to vote at the polling places. The circuit clerk shall give adequate notice of the location of the early voters' polling places to eligible electors.

SECTION 3. For primary elections the circuit clerk shall appoint at least two (2) election managers for each early voters' polling place. The managers will be chosen by the executive committee of each political party.

SECTION 4. Any political party, candidate, or proponents or opponents of a ballot issue entitled to have poll watchers at polling places shall each have the right to maintain one (1) poll watcher at the early voters' polling place during the casting and counting of early voters' ballots.

SECTION 5. The right to vote of any person voting by early voters' ballot may be challenged in the same manner and for the same causes as voters are challenged on election day.

SECTION 6. Ballot boxes for early voting shall be locked and sealed each night with a numbered seal under the supervision of the election managers, and the keys shall remain in the possession of the designated election official until transferred to the circuit clerk for counting and tabulating as provided by law for the counting and tabulating of absentee ballots. When a seal is broken, the designated election official and a person who shall not be of the same political party as the designated election official shall record the number of the seal, and maintain the seal along with an explanation of the reasons for breaking the seal.

SECTION 7. Section 23-15-11, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:

23-15-11. Every inhabitant of this state, except idiots and insane persons, who is a citizen of the United States of America, eighteen (18) years old and upwards, who has resided in this state for thirty (30) days and for thirty (30) days in the county in which he offers to vote, and for thirty (30) days in the supervisor's district or in the incorporated city or town in which he offers to vote, and who shall have been duly registered as an elector by an officer of this state under the laws thereof, and who has never been convicted of any crime listed in Section 241, Mississippi Constitution of 1890, shall be a qualified elector in and for the county, municipality and voting precinct of his residence, and shall be entitled to vote at any election. Any person who will be eighteen (18) years of age or older on or before the date of the general election and who is duly registered to vote not less then thirty (30) days before the primary election associated with the general election, may vote in the primary election or at the early voters' polling place even though that person has not reached his or her eighteenth birthday at the time such person offers to vote at the primary election or at the early voters' polling place. No others than those above included shall be entitled, or shall be allowed, to vote at any election.

SECTION 8. Section 23-15-363, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:

23-15-363. After the proper officer has knowledge of or has been notified of the nomination, as provided, of any candidate for office, the officer shall not omit his name from the ballot, unless upon the written request of the candidate nominated, made at least ten (10) days before the day early voting is to begin as provided in Section 1 of this act; and in no case after the ballot has been printed; and every ballot shall contain the names of all candidates nominated as specified, and not duly withdrawn.

SECTION 9. Section 23-15-353, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:

23-15-353. The officer charged with printing and distributing the official ballot shall ascertain from the registrar, at least forty-five (45) days before the day of election, the number of registered voters in each voting precinct; and he shall have printed and distributed a sufficient number of ballots for use in each early voters' polling place and in each precinct. He shall * * * prepare full instructions for the guidance of electors at elections as to obtaining ballots, the manner of marking them, and the mode of obtaining new ballots in the place of those spoiled by accident. The instructions shall be printed in large, clear type, on "cards of instruction," and the officer shall furnish the same in sufficient numbers for the use of electors. The cards shall be preserved by the officers of election and returned by them to the commissioners of election; and they may be used, if applicable, in subsequent elections.

SECTION 10. Section 23-15-627, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:

23-15-627. The registrar shall be responsible for furnishing an absentee ballot application form to any elector authorized to receive a ballot. The application shall be substantially in the following form:

"OFFICIAL APPLICATION FOR ABSENT ELECTOR'S BALLOT

SEQUENTIAL APPLICATION NUMBER __________

I, _____, duly qualified and registered in the ___ Precinct of the County of _____, and State of Mississippi, coming within the purview of the definition 'ABSENT ELECTOR' will be absent from the county of my residence on election day, or unable to vote in person because (check appropriate reason):

( ) (PRESIDENTIAL APPLICANT ONLY:) I am currently a resident of Mississippi or have moved therefrom within thirty (30) days of the coming presidential election.

( ) I am an enlisted or commissioned member, male or female, of any component of the United States Armed Forces and am a citizen of Mississippi, or spouse or dependent of such member.

( ) I am a member of the Merchant Marine or the American Red Cross and am a citizen of Mississippi or spouse or dependent of such member.

( ) I am a disabled war veteran who is a patient in any hospital and am a citizen of Mississippi or spouse or dependent of such veteran.

( ) I am a civilian attached to and serving outside of the United States with any branch of the Armed Forces or with the Merchant Marine or American Red Cross, and am a citizen of Mississippi or spouse or dependent of such civilian.

( ) I am a citizen of Mississippi temporarily residing outside the territorial limits of the United States and the District of Columbia.

( ) I am a student, teacher or administrator at a college, university, junior or community college, high, junior high, elementary or grade school, whose studies or employment at such institution necessitates my absence from the county of my voting residence or spouse or dependent of such student, teacher or administrator who maintains a common domicile outside the county of my voting residence with such student, teacher or administrator.

 * * *

( ) I am ( ) temporarily disabled or ( ) permanently disabled and ( ) voting in person could likely create a medical danger to myself or to others or ( ) voting in person would be a substantial hardship to myself as the result of my disability.

( ) I am sixty-five (65) years of age or older. 

( ) I am the parent, spouse or dependent of a person with a temporary or permanent physical disability who is hospitalized outside his county of residence or more than fifty (50) miles away from his residence, and I will be with such person on election day.

( ) I am a member of the congressional delegation, or spouse or dependent of a member of the congressional delegation.

 * * *

I hereby make application for an official ballot, or ballots, to be voted by me at the election to be held in _____, on _____. Send 'Absent Elector's Ballot' to me (1) at the following address _____________, or (2) deliver same to me in person. (Strike (1) or (2), whichever is inapplicable.)

I realize that I can be fined up to Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00) and sentenced up to five (5) years in the penitentiary for making a false statement in this application and for selling my vote and violating the Mississippi Absentee Voter Law. (This sentence is to be in bold print.)

If you are temporarily or permanently disabled, you are not required to have this application notarized or signed by an official authorized to administer oaths for absentee balloting. You are required to sign this application in the proper place and have a person eighteen (18) years of age or older witness your signature and sign this application in the proper place.

DO NOT SIGN WITHOUT READING. (This sentence is to be in bold print.)

In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this the ____ day of ______, 19__.

_________________________________

(Signature of absent elector)

_________________________________

(Address as registered)

_________________________________

(Current residence address)

_________________________________

(Social Security number)-(Optional)

SWORN TO AND SUBSCRIBED before me this the ____ day of _____, 19__.

_________________________________

(Official authorized to administer oaths for absentee balloting or witness in the case of an elector temporarily or permanently disabled.)"

A perforated stub shall be attached to the top of the application to be retained by the registrar which shall contain the following information:

"Application for Absentee Ballot for:

____________________________ ____________________________

(Name) (Address)

Sequential Application Number _________________________________

Requested by: _______________________________

(Signature)

Relationship to Voter: ______________________

Requested by: _____ Phone _____ Fax _____ In Person (check one)

Date of Request _______________________

Date of Election ______________________

Type of Ballot ____ Democratic Primary ____ Republican Primary

____ General Election ____ Special Election"

SECTION 11. Section 23-15-713, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:

23-15-713. For the purpose of this subarticle, any duly qualified elector may vote as provided in this subarticle if he is one who falls within the following categories:

(a) Any qualified elector who is a bona fide student, teacher or administrator at any college, university, junior college, high, junior high, or elementary grade school whose studies or employment at the institution necessitates his absence from the county of his voting residence on the date of any primary, general or special election, or the spouse and dependents of the student, teacher or administrator if the spouse or dependent(s) maintain a common domicile, outside of the county of his voting residence, with the student, teacher or administrator.

(b) Any qualified elector who is required to be away from his place of residence on any election day due to his employment as an employee of a member of the Mississippi congressional delegation and the spouse and dependents of such person if he or she shall be residing with such absentee voter away from the county of the spouse's voting residence.

 * * *

(c) Any person who has a temporary or permanent physical disability and who, because of the disability, is unable to vote in person without substantial hardship to himself or others, or whose attendance at the voting place could reasonably cause danger to himself or others.

(d) The parent, spouse or dependent of a person with a temporary or permanent physical disability who is hospitalized outside of his county of residence or more than fifty (50) miles distant from his residence, if the parent, spouse or dependent will be with that person on election day.

(e) Any person who is sixty-five (65) years of age or older.

(f) Any member of the Mississippi congressional delegation absent from Mississippi on election day, and the spouse and dependents of the member of the congressional delegation.

 * * *

SECTION 12. The Attorney General of the State of Mississippi shall submit this act, immediately upon approval by the Governor, or upon approval by the Legislature subsequent to a veto, to the Attorney General of the United States or to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in accordance with the provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended and extended.

SECTION 13. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after the date it is effectuated under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended and extended.