MISSISSIPPI LEGISLATURE

2006 Regular Session

To: Apportionment and Elections

By: Representative Moss, Cummings

House Bill 162

AN ACT TO CREATE "THE EARLY VOTING ACT"; TO PROVIDE THAT A PERSON MAY VOTE EARLY DURING A CERTAIN TIME PERIOD; TO PROVIDE THAT THE SECRETARY OF STATE SHALL PROMULGATE RULES AND REGULATIONS NECESSARY TO EFFECTUATE THE PROVISIONS OF THIS ACT; TO AMEND SECTION 23-15-653, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO PROVIDE THAT THE REGISTRARS' OFFICE SHALL DETERMINE THE APPROPRIATE TIMES THAT THE REGISTRAR'S OFFICE REMAIN OPEN DURING EARLY VOTING; TO BRING FORWARD SECTIONS 23-15-227, 23-15-229, 23-15-231 AND 23-15-235, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, FOR PURPOSES OF AMENDMENT; TO AMEND SECTION 23-15-239, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO PROVIDE THE TIME PERIOD IN WHICH MANAGERS MUST BE TRAINED FOR EARLY VOTING; TO BRING FORWARD SECTIONS 23-15-247 AND 23-15-251, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, FOR PURPOSES OF AMENDMENT; TO AMEND SECTION 23-15-259, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO AUTHORIZE THE COUNTY TO COMPENSATE OFFICERS RENDERING SERVICES FOR VARIOUS ELECTION RELATED ACTIVITIES; TO AMEND SECTION 23-15-265, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO REVISE THE TIME THAT MANAGERS AND CLERKS ARE APPOINTED FOR AN ELECTION; TO BRING FORWARD SECTION 23-15-267, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, FOR PURPOSES OF AMENDMENT; TO AMEND SECTION 23-15-353, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO ADD THE EARLY VOTING PERIOD TO THE TIME REQUIREMENTS FOR PRINTING AND DISTRIBUTING THE OFFICIAL BALLOT; TO BRING FORWARD SECTIONS 23-15-391 AND 23-15-405, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, FOR PURPOSES OF AMENDMENT; TO AMEND SECTION 23-15-415, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO ADD THE EARLY VOTING PERIOD TO THE TIME REQUIRED TO PROPERLY PREPARE VOTING MACHINES; TO AMEND SECTION 23-15-417, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO REVISE THE TIME THAT OFFICIALS IN CHARGE OF THE ELECTIONS SHALL APPOINT ONE OR MORE PERSONS TO INSTRUCT THE MANAGERS AND CLERKS ON THE USE OF VOTING MACHINES; TO BRING FORWARD SECTION 23-15-429, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, FOR PURPOSES OF AMENDMENT; TO AMEND SECTION 23-15-441, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO ADD THE EARLY VOTING PERIOD TO THE TIME REQUIRED TO LOCK AND SEAL THE VOTING MACHINE AGAINST FURTHER VOTING; TO AMEND SECTION 23-15-473, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO REVISE THE TIME THAT VOTING DEVICES MUST BE PREPARED; TO BRING FORWARD SECTIONS 23-15-479, 23-15-505, 23-15-519 AND 23-15-541, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, FOR PURPOSES OF AMENDMENT; TO AMEND SECTION 23-15-627, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO ADD EARLY VOTING TO THE OPTIONS WHICH PERMIT ONE TO VOTE BY ABSENTEE BALLOT; TO BRING FORWARD SECTION 23-15-639, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, FOR PURPOSES OF AMENDMENT; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.

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

     SECTION 1.  This act shall be known and may be cited as the

"Early Voting Act."

     SECTION 2.   A qualified elector may vote early not more than twenty (20) days nor less than five (5) days before the date of an election during such times and at such locations as determined by the office of the registrar.

     SECTION 3.  Persons voting early are entitled to the same

assistance in voting that they would be if they appeared to vote

on election day.

     SECTION 4.   The Secretary of State shall promulgate rules    

and regulations necessary to effectuate the provisions of the

"Early Voting Act." 

     SECTION 5.  Section 23-15-653, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:

     23-15-653.  (1)  Except as provided in subsection (2) of this section, all registrars' offices shall remain open until noon on the two (2) Saturdays prior to each election.

     (2)  (a)  On at least three (3) days during the early voting period, the county registrars' offices shall remain open between 4:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., and on at least one (1) Saturday during the same period the office shall be open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  The registrars' offices shall determine the appropriate dates for both late and regular hours.

          (b) Notice of the office hours shall be given by the county registrar not less than twenty-five (25) days before the day of election by publication in a newspaper of general circulation.

     SECTION 6.  Section 23-15-227, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:

     23-15-227.  The managers and clerks shall be each entitled to Fifty Dollars ($50.00) for each election; provided, however, that the board of supervisors may, in its discretion, pay the managers and clerks an additional amount not to exceed Twenty-five Dollars ($25.00) per election.  The manager or other person who shall carry to the place of voting, away from the courthouse, the official ballots, ballot boxes, pollbooks and other necessities, shall be allowed Ten Dollars ($10.00) for each voting precinct for so doing.  The manager or other person who acts as returning officer shall be allowed Ten Dollars ($10.00) for each voting precinct for that service.  The compensation authorized in this section shall be allowed by the board of supervisors, and shall be payable out of the county treasury.

     The compensation provided in this section shall constitute payment in full for the services rendered by the persons named for any election, whether there be one (1) election or issue voted upon, or more than one (1) election or issue voted upon at the same time.

     SECTION 7.  Section 23-15-229, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:

     23-15-229.  The compensation for clerks, managers and other workers in the polling places of a municipality shall be the same as the compensation paid by the county for such services; provided, however, that the governing authorities of a municipality shall not be required to pay any additional compensation authorized by the board of supervisors.  The governing authorities of a municipality may, in their discretion, pay clerks and managers in the polling places of the municipality an additional amount of compensation not to exceed Twenty-five Dollars ($25.00) per election.

     SECTION 8.  Section 23-15-231, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:

     23-15-231.  Prior to every election, the commissioners of election shall appoint three (3) persons for each voting precinct to be managers of the election, one (1) of whom shall be designated by the commissioners of election as election bailiff.  Such managers shall not all be of the same political party if suitable persons of different political parties can be found in the district.  If any person appointed shall fail to attend and serve, the managers present, if any, may designate someone to fill his place; and if the commissioners of election fail to make the appointments or in case of the failure of all those appointed to attend and serve, any three (3) qualified electors present when the polls should be opened may act as managers.  Provided, however, any person appointed to be manager or act as manager shall be a qualified elector of the county in which the polling place is located.

     SECTION 9.  Section 23-15-235, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:

     23-15-235.  In addition to the managers appointed pursuant to Section 23-15-231, for the first five hundred (500) registered voters in each voting precinct, the commissioners of election may, in their discretion, appoint not more than three (3) persons to serve as managers or clerks of the election.  The commissioners of election may, in their discretion, appoint three (3) additional persons to serve as clerks for each one thousand (1,000) registered voters or fraction thereof in each voting precinct above the first five hundred (500).  Any person appointed as clerk shall be a qualified elector of the county in which the voting precinct is located.

     The restrictions provided for in this section regarding the number of additional managers and clerks that may be appointed by commissioners of election shall not apply to elections conducted by paper ballot prior to January 1, 1989.  In elections conducted by paper ballot prior to January 1, 1989, the commissioners of election may appoint as many additional managers and clerks as they may consider necessary to conduct the elections.

     SECTION 10.  Section 23-15-239, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:

     23-15-239.  (1)  For those managers who will be working on the day of election, the executive committee of each county, in the case of a primary election, or the commissioners of election of each county, in the case of all other elections, in conjunction with the circuit clerk, shall sponsor and conduct, not less than five (5) days prior to each election, training sessions to instruct managers as to their duties in the proper administration of the election and the operation of the polling place.  For those managers who may work during the early voting period, the executive committee of each county, in the case of a primary election, or the commissioners of election of each county, in the case of all other elections, in conjunction with the circuit clerk, shall sponsor and conduct, not less than twenty-five (25) days prior to each election, training sessions to instruct managers as to their duties in the proper administration of the election and the operation of the polling place.  No manager shall serve in any election unless he has received such instructions once during the twelve (12) months immediately preceding the date upon which such election is held; provided, however, that nothing in this section shall prevent the appointment of an alternate manager to fill a vacancy in case of an emergency.  The county executive committee or the commissioners of election, as appropriate, shall train a sufficient number of alternates to serve in the event a manager is unable to serve for any reason.

     (2)  (a)  If it is eligible under Section 23-15-266, the county executive committee may enter into a written agreement with the circuit clerk or the county election commission authorizing the circuit clerk or the county election commission to perform any of the duties required of the county executive committee pursuant to this section.  Any agreement entered into pursuant to this subsection shall be signed by the chairman of the county executive committee and the circuit clerk or the chairman of the county election commission, as appropriate.  The county executive committee shall notify the State Executive Committee and the Secretary of State of the existence of such agreement.

          (b)  If it is eligible under Section 23-15-266, the municipal executive committee may enter into a written agreement with the municipal clerk or the municipal election commission authorizing the municipal clerk or the municipal election commission to perform any of the duties required of the municipal executive committee pursuant to this section.  Any agreement entered into pursuant to this subsection shall be signed by the chairman of the municipal executive committee and the municipal clerk or the chairman of the municipal election commission, as appropriate.  The municipal executive committee shall notify the State Executive Committee and the Secretary of State of the existence of such agreement.

     (3)  The board of supervisors, in their discretion, may compensate managers who attend such training sessions.  The compensation shall be at a rate of not less than the federal hourly minimum wage nor more than Ten Dollars ($10.00) per hour.  Managers shall not be compensated for more than two (2) hours of attendance at the training sessions regardless of the actual amount of time that they attended the training sessions.

     (4)  The time and location of the training sessions required pursuant to this section shall be announced to the general public by posting a notice thereof at the courthouse and by delivering a copy of the notice to the office of a newspaper having general circulation in the county five (5) days before the date upon which the training session is to be conducted.  Persons who will serve as poll watchers for candidates and political parties, as well as members of the general public, shall be allowed to attend the sessions.

     SECTION 11.  Section 23-15-247, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:

     23-15-247.  The commissioners of election in each county shall procure, if not already provided, a sufficient number of ballot boxes, which shall be distributed by them to the voting precincts of the county before the time for opening the polls. The boxes shall be secured by good and substantial locks, and, if an adjournment shall take place after the opening of the polls and before all the votes shall be counted, the box shall be securely locked, so as to prevent the admission of anything into it, or the taking of anything from it, during the time of adjournment; and the box shall be kept by one of the managers and the key by another of the managers, and the manager having the box shall carefully keep it, and neither unlock or open it himself nor permit it to be done, nor permit any person to have any access to it during the time of adjournment.  The box shall not be removed from the polling building or place after the polls are opened until the count is complete, if as many as three (3) qualified electors object.  After each election the ballot boxes shall be delivered, with the keys thereof, to the clerk of the circuit court of the county for preservation; and he shall keep them for future use, and, when called for, deliver them to the commissioners of election.

     SECTION 12.  Section 23-15-251, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:

     23-15-251.  The commissioners of election, in appointing the managers of election, shall designate one (1) of the managers at each voting place to receive and distribute the official ballots, and shall deliver to him the proper number of ballots and cards of instruction for his district not less than one (1) day before the election and not less than one (1) day before each day of early voting; and the manager receiving the ballots from the commissioners shall distribute the same to the electors of his district in the manner herein provided.  It shall be the duty of said person so designated as aforesaid for service at a voting place other than the courthouse, to carry to the said voting place, on the day previous to the election, the ballot box, the pollbook, the blank tally sheets, the blank forms to be used in making returns, the other necessary stationery and supplies and the official printed ballots aforesaid, and all of the same used and unused shall be returned by the manager designated as aforesaid to the commissioners of election on the day next following the election.

     SECTION 13.  Section 23-15-259, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:

     23-15-259.  The boards of supervisors of the several counties are authorized to allow compensation of the officers rendering services in matters of registration and elections, to provide ballot boxes, registration and pollbooks, and all other things required by law in registration and elections.  Said boards are also authorized, by order spread upon the minutes of the board setting forth the cost and source of funds therefor, to purchase improved or unimproved property and to construct, reconstruct, repair, renovate and maintain polling places or to pay to private property owners reasonable rental fees when the property is used as a polling place for a period not to exceed the day immediately preceding the first day of the early voting period described in Section 2 of House Bill ____, 2006 Regular Session or the day immediately preceding the day of election, whichever is applicable, the day of the election, and the day immediately following the election and to allow such reasonable sum as may be expended in supplying voting compartments, tables or shelves for use at elections.

     All facilities owned or leased by the state, county, municipality or school district may be made available at no cost to the board of supervisors for use as polling places to such extent as may be agreed to by the authority having control or custody of such facilities.

     SECTION 14.  Section 23-15-265, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:

     23-15-265.  (1)  The county executive committee of each county shall meet not less than four (4) weeks before the date of any primary election and appoint the managers and clerks for same, all of whom may be members of the same political party.  The number of managers and clerks appointed by the county executive committee shall be the same number as commissioners of election are allowed to appoint pursuant to Sections 23-15-231 and 23-15-235.  If the county executive committee fails to meet on the date named, supra, further notice shall be given of the time and place of meeting.

     (2)  (a)  If it is eligible under Section 23-15-266, the county executive committee may enter into a written agreement with the circuit clerk or the county election commission authorizing the circuit clerk or the county election commission to perform any of the duties required of the county executive committee pursuant to this section.  Any agreement entered into pursuant to this subsection shall be signed by the chairman of the county executive committee and the circuit clerk or the chairman of the county election commission, as appropriate.  The county executive committee shall notify the State Executive Committee and the Secretary of State of the existence of such agreement.

          (b)  If it is eligible under Section 23-15-266, the municipal executive committee may enter into a written agreement with the municipal clerk or the municipal election commission authorizing the municipal clerk or the municipal election commission to perform any of the duties required of the municipal executive committee pursuant to this section.  Any agreement entered into pursuant to this subsection shall be signed by the chairman of the municipal executive committee and the municipal clerk or the chairman of the municipal election commission, as appropriate.  The municipal executive committee shall notify the State Executive Committee and the Secretary of State of the existence of such agreement.

     SECTION 15.  Section 23-15-267, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:

     23-15-267.  (1)  The ballot boxes provided by the regular commissioners of election in each county shall be used in primary elections, and the county executive committees shall distribute them to the voting precincts of the county before the time for opening the polls, in the same manner, as near as may be, as that provided for in general elections. 

     (2)  If an adjournment shall take place after the polls are open and before all votes are counted, the ballot box shall be securely locked so as to prevent the admission into it or the taking of anything from it during the time of adjournment; and the box shall be kept by one of the managers, and the key by another of the managers, and the manager having the box shall carefully keep it, and neither undertake to open it himself or permit it to be done, or to permit any person to have access to it during the time of adjournment.  The box shall not be removed from the polling building or place after the polls are open until the count is completed if as many as three (3) electors qualified to vote at the election object. 

     (3)  After each election, the ballot boxes of those provided by the regular commissioner of election shall be delivered, with the keys thereof immediately and as soon thereafter as possible, and without delay to the clerk of the circuit court of the county.  (4)  (a)  If it is eligible under Section 23-15-266, the county executive committee may enter into a written agreement with the circuit clerk or the county election commission authorizing the circuit clerk or the county election commission to perform any of the duties required of the county executive committee pursuant to this section.  Any agreement entered into pursuant to this subsection shall be signed by the chairman of the county executive committee and the circuit clerk or the chairman of the county election commission, as appropriate.  The county executive committee shall notify the State Executive Committee and the Secretary of State of the existence of such agreement.

          (b)  If it is eligible under Section 23-15-266, the municipal executive committee may enter into a written agreement with the municipal clerk or the municipal election commission authorizing the municipal clerk or the municipal election commission to perform any of the duties required of the municipal executive committee pursuant to this section.  Any agreement entered into pursuant to this subsection shall be signed by the chairman of the municipal executive committee and the municipal clerk or the chairman of the municipal election commission, as appropriate.  The municipal executive committee shall notify the State Executive Committee and the Secretary of State of the existence of such agreement.

     (5)  The person, or persons, whose duty it is to comply with the provisions of this section and who shall fail, or neglect, from any cause, to deliver said boxes or any of them as herein provided shall, upon conviction, be fined not less than Two Hundred Dollars ($200.00) and be imprisoned in the county jail of the residence of the person, or persons, who violates any of the provisions of this section, for a period of not less than thirty (30) days or more than six (6) months, and fined not more than Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00).

     SECTION 16.  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 ten (10) days before the early voting period described in Section 2 of House Bill No. ____, 2006 Regular Session or the day of election, whichever is applicable, 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 precinct.  He shall also 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 *.  Section 23-15-391, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:

     23-15-391.  The board of supervisors of each county in the State of Mississippi shall utilize voting machines, electronic voting systems, optical mark reading equipment or direct recording electronic voting equipment which shall comply with the specifications provided by law.  The election commissioners may designate elections to be administered by paper ballot where the election commissioners determine that administration of an election by paper ballot will be less expensive than administration of the same election by voting machines, electronic voting systems, optical mark reading equipment or direct recording electronic voting equipment.

     SECTION 18.  Section 23-15-405, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:

     23-15-405.  Whenever the board of supervisors of any county or the governing authorities of any municipality shall purchase or rent voting machines that meet the requirements of this article, such voting machines may be used at all elections held in such county or municipality, or in any part thereof, for voting, registering and counting votes cast at such elections.  In providing voting machines, the board of supervisors is hereby empowered to purchase or rent voting machines for each voting precinct in the entire county, including those located within the municipality, or, in the discretion of the board, voting machines may be purchased or rented only for those voting precincts located outside the limits of the municipalities located in said county.  The board of supervisors of any county and the governing authorities of any municipality may jointly purchase or rent voting machines for all of the voting precincts in the entire county.  Whenever voting machines have been purchased or rented by either the board of supervisors or the governing authorities of a municipality, for use at voting precincts within the county or within the municipality, said voting machines may be used at said voting precincts in all elections, and the officials in charge of the election to be held shall cause the voting machines to be prepared and used at such election as provided for herein.  Voting machines of different kinds may be adopted for different counties within the state.

     Voting machines may be used in combination with paper ballots in any election at the discretion of and under rules and regulations set up by the officials in charge of the election.

     SECTION 19.  Section 23-15-415, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:

     23-15-415.  It shall be the duty of the authorities in charge of any election where a voting machine is to be used, to have the machine at the proper polling place or places before the time fixed for opening of the polls, and the counters set at zero, and otherwise in good and proper order for use at such election. For the purpose of placing ballots in the ballot frames of the machine, putting it in order, setting, testing and adjusting and delivering the machine, the authorities in charge of elections may employ one or more competent persons, to be known as custodian or custodians of voting machines, who shall be fully competent, thoroughly instructed, and sworn to perform his duties honestly and faithfully, and for such purpose shall be appointed and instructed at least thirty (30) days before the election.  All voting machines to be used in an election shall be properly prepared at least three (3) days prior to the early voting period described in Section 2 of House Bill No. ญญญ____, 2006 Regular Session or the day of election, whichever is applicable.  When a voting machine has been properly prepared for election, it shall be locked against voting and sealed; and the keys thereof shall be delivered to the registrar, together with a written report made by the custodian or official preparing the machine, stating that it is in every way properly prepared for the election.  After the voting machine has been transferred to the polling place, it shall be the duty of the managers to provide ample protection against molestation or injury to the machine.  All voting machines used in any election shall be provided with a screen, hood or curtain which shall be so made and adjusted as to conceal the voter and his action while voting.

     SECTION 20.  Section 23-15-417, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:

     23-15-417.  At least twenty-eight (28) days before each election, the officials in charge of the elections shall appoint one or more persons to instruct the managers and clerks that are to serve in a voting precinct in the use of the machine, and in their duties in connection therewith; and he shall give to each manager and clerk, who has received such instruction and is fully qualified to properly conduct the election with the machine, a certificate to that effect.  For the purpose of giving such instruction, the person or persons appointed as instructors shall call such meeting or meetings of the managers and clerks as shall be necessary.  Such person shall, within five (5) days, file a report with the officials in charge of the elections, stating that he has instructed the managers and clerks, giving the names of such officers, and the time and place where such instruction was given.  The managers and clerks of each voting precinct in which a voting machine is to be used shall attend such meeting, or meetings, as shall be called for the purpose of receiving such instruction concerning their duties as shall be necessary for the proper conduct of the election with the machine.  No manager or clerk shall serve in any election at which a voting machine is used, unless he shall have received such instruction and is fully qualified to perform the duties in connection with the machine, and has received a certificate to that effect, provided, however, that this shall not prevent the appointment of a person as a manager or clerk to fill a vacancy in an emergency.

     SECTION 21.  Section 23-15-429, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:

     23-15-429.  Prior to the opening of the polls, the managers and clerks of each voting precinct shall meet at the polling place at the time set for opening of the polls, at each election, and shall proceed to arrange the furniture, stationery and voting machine for the conduct of the election.  The keys to the voting machines shall be delivered to the managers before the time set for opening the polls, in a sealed envelope, on which shall be written or printed the number and location of the voting machine, and the number of the seal and the number registered on the protective counter or device, as reported by the custodian or official preparing the machine.  Before opening the envelope, all managers and clerks present shall examine the number on the seal on the machine, also the number registered on the protective counter, and shall see if they are the same as the number written on the envelope; and if they are not the same, the machine must not be opened until the custodian, or other authorized person, shall have been notified and shall have presented himself at the polling place for the purpose of re-examining such machine and shall certify that it is properly arranged.

     If the numbers on the envelope are the same as those on the machine, the election officers shall proceed to open the doors concealing the counters, and each officer shall carefully examine every counter and see that it registers zero, and the same shall be subject to the inspection of official watchers.  The machine shall remain locked against voting until the polls are formally opened, and shall not be operated except by voters in voting.  If any counter is found not to register zero, the manager shall immediately notify the officials in charge of the election or the custodian, who shall, if practicable, adjust the counters at zero; but if it shall be impracticable to so adjust such counters before the time set for opening the polls, the managers shall immediately make a written statement of the designating letter and number of such counter, together with the number registered thereon, and shall sign and post same upon the wall of the polling room, where it shall remain throughout election day, and, in filling out the statement of canvass, they shall subtract such number from the number then registered thereon.

     SECTION 22.  Section 23-15-441, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:

     23-15-441.  Immediately upon the close of the polls on the day of election or on each day of early voting as described in Section 2, House Bill No. ____, 2006 Regular Session, whichever is applicable, the managers shall lock and seal the voting machine against further voting and open the counter compartment in the presence of the persons who may be lawfully present at that time, giving full view of the counters.  The manager shall then, in the order of the offices as their titles are arranged on the machine, read and announce in distinct tones the result as shown by the counters and shall then read the votes recorded for each office on the irregular ballots; he shall also, in the same manner, read and announce the vote on each constitutional amendment, proposition or other question.  As each vote is read and announced, it shall be recorded on two (2) statements of canvass by the two (2) clerks, and, when completed, shall be compared with the numbers on the counters of the machine.  If found to be correct, the statements of canvass, after being duly certified and sworn to, shall be filed as now provided by law for filing election returns.  After the reading and announcing of the vote, and before the doors of the counter compartment of the voting machine shall be closed, ample opportunity shall be given to any person or persons lawfully present to compare the results so announced with the counters of the machine and any necessary corrections shall then and there be made by the managers or clerks.  There shall be furnished two (2) copies of a statement of canvass to conform to the requirements of the voting machine or machines being used.

     SECTION 23.  Section 23-15-473, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:

     23-15-473.  The circuit court clerk shall be the custodian of voting devices acquired by a county, who shall be charged with the proper storage, maintenance and repair of voting devices, and the preparation of them for voting prior to elections.  After they have been prepared for an election and at least three (3) days prior to the early voting period described in Section 2 of House Bill No. ____, 2006 Regular Session, or the day of election, whichever is applicable, the voting devices shall be available for public inspection at a time and place designated by the custodian. Thereafter they shall be locked or sealed before delivery to the managers of the election.  The custodian shall immediately repair, replace or remove any voting device which fails to function properly on election day.  The clerk of any municipality which acquires voting devices shall be the custodian of such voting devices and perform the same functions.

     If a voting device at a polling place malfunctions and cannot be repaired or replaced quickly and there is no other device in the polling place that can be used to perform the function of the device that malfunctions, unofficial ballots made as nearly as possible in the form of the official ballot may be used until the voting device is repaired or replaced.  Such ballots shall be received by the managers and placed by them in a receptacle in such case to be provided by the managers, and counted with the votes registered on the voting device; and the result shall be declared the same as though there had been no accident to the voting device; the ballots thus voted shall be preserved and returned as herein directed, with a certificate or statement setting forth how and why the same were voted.

     SECTION 24.  Section 23-15-479, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:

     23-15-479.  The managers shall prepare a report in duplicate of the number of voters who have voted, as indicated by the poll list, and shall place this report in the ballot box, which thereupon shall be sealed with a paper seal signed by the managers so that no additional ballots may be deposited or removed from the ballot box.  Two (2) managers shall forthwith deliver the ballot box to the counting center or other designated place and receive a signed, numbered receipt therefor.  The poll list, register of voters, unused ballots and ballot cards, spoiled ballots, and other records and supplies, shall be returned as directed by the officials in charge of the election.

     SECTION 25.  Section 23-15-505, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:

     23-15-505.  The board of supervisors of any county in the State of Mississippi and the governing authorities of any municipality in the State of Mississippi are hereby authorized and empowered, in their discretion, to purchase or rent optical mark reading equipment used in an electronic voting system which meets the requirements of Section 23-15-507 and may use such system in all or a part of the precincts within its boundaries. It may enlarge, consolidate or alter the boundaries of precincts where an electronic voting system is used.  The provisions of this chapter shall be controlling with respect to elections where any OMR system is used, and shall be liberally construed so as to carry out the purpose of this chapter.  The provisions of the election law relating to the conduct of elections with paper ballots, that are to be manually tabulated, insofar as they are applicable and not in conflict with the efficient conduct of the systems, shall apply.

     SECTION 26.  Section 23-15-519, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:

     23-15-519.  The managers shall prepare a report in duplicate of the number of voters who have voted, as indicated by the poll list, and shall place this report in the ballot box, which thereupon shall be sealed with a paper seal signed by the managers so that no additional ballots may be deposited or removed from the ballot box.  The manager or other person who acts as returning officer shall forthwith deliver the ballot box to the counting center or other designated place and receive a signed, numbered receipt therefor.  The poll list, register of voters, unused ballots, spoiled ballots, and other records and supplies, shall be returned as directed by the officials in charge of the election.

     SECTION 27.  Section 23-15-541, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:

     23-15-541.  At all elections, the polls shall be opened at seven o'clock in the morning and be kept open until seven o'clock in the evening and no longer.  Upon the opening of the polls, and not before, the managers of the election shall designate two (2) of their number, other than the manager theretofore designated to receive the blank ballots, who shall thereupon be known respectively as the initialing manager and the alternate initialing manager.  The alternate initialing manager, in the absence of the initialing manager, shall perform all of the duties and undertake all of the responsibilities of the initialing manager.  When any person entitled to vote shall appear to vote, he shall first sign his name in a receipt book or booklet provided for that purpose and to be used at that election only and said receipt book or booklet shall be used in lieu of the list of voters who have voted formerly made by the managers or clerks; whereupon and not before, the initialing manager or, in his absence, the alternate initialing manager shall indorse his initials on the back of an official blank ballot, prepared in accordance with law, and at such place on the back of the ballot that the initials may be seen after the ballot has been marked and folded, and when so indorsed he shall deliver it to the voter, which ballot the voter shall mark in the manner provided by law, which when done the voter shall deliver the same to the initialing manager or, in his absence, to the alternate initialing manager, in the presence of the others, and the manager shall see that the ballot so delivered bears on the back thereof the genuine initials of the initialing manager, or alternate initialing manager, and if so, but not otherwise, the ballot shall be put into the ballot box; and when so done one (1) of the managers or a duly appointed clerk shall make the proper entry on the pollbook.  If the voter is unable to write his name on the receipt book, a manager or clerk shall note on the back of the ballot that it was receipted for by his assistance.

     SECTION 28.  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 an absentee ballot.  Absentee ballot applications shall be furnished to a person only upon the oral or written request of the elector who seeks to vote by absentee ballot; however, the parent, child, spouse, sibling, legal guardian, those empowered with a power of attorney for that elector's affairs or agent of the elector may orally request an absentee ballot application on behalf of the elector.  An absentee ballot application must have the seal of the circuit or municipal clerk affixed to it and be initialed by the registrar or his deputy in order to be utilized to obtain an absentee ballot.  A reproduction of an absentee ballot application shall not be valid unless it is a reproduction provided by the office of the registrar of the jurisdiction in which the election is being held and which contains the seal and initials required by this section.  Such application shall be substantially in the following form:

"OFFICIAL APPLICATION FOR ABSENT ELECTOR'S BALLOT

     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 will be outside the county on election day.

     ( )  I have a temporary or permanent physical 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 am required to be at work on election day during the times which the polls will be open.

     ( )  I desire to vote early.

     I hereby make application for an official ballot, or ballots, to be voted by me at the election to be held in _____, on _____.

     Mail 'Absent Elector's Ballot' to me at the following address ____________ (if eligible to vote by mail).

     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 ______, 2___.

                          _________________________________

                          (Signature of absent elector)

     SWORN TO AND SUBSCRIBED before me this the ____ day of _____, 2___.

                        ________________________________________

                        (Official authorized to administer oaths

                          for absentee balloting.)

     TO BE SIGNED BY WITNESS FOR VOTERS TEMPORARILY OR PERMANENTLY DISABLED:

     I HEREBY CERTIFY that this application for an absent elector's ballot was signed by the above-named disabled elector in my presence and that I am at least eighteen (18) years of age, this the _____ day of ____________________, 2___.

                          _________________________________

                          (Signature of witness)

CERTIFICATE OF DELIVERY

     I hereby certify that _________________ (print name of voter) has requested that I, __________________ (print name of person delivering application), deliver to the voter this absentee ballot application.

                   __________________________________________

                   (Signature of person delivering application)

                   __________________________________________

                   (Address of person delivering application)"

     SECTION 29.  Section 23-15-639, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:

     23-15-639.  At the close of the regular balloting and at the close of the polls, the election managers of each voting precinct shall first take the envelopes containing the absentee ballots of such electors from the box, and the name, address and precinct inscribed on each such envelope shall be announced by the election managers.  The signature on the application shall then be compared with the signature on the back of the envelope.  If it corresponds and the affidavit, if one is required, is sufficient and the election managers find that the applicant is a registered and qualified voter or otherwise qualified to vote, and that he has not appeared in person and voted at such election, the envelope shall then be opened and the ballot removed from the envelope, without its being unfolded, or permitted to be unfolded or examined.  Having observed and found the ballot to be regular as far as can be observed from its official endorsement, the election managers shall deposit it in the ballot box with the other ballots before counting any ballots and enter the voter's name in the receipt book provided for that purpose and mark "VOTED" in the pollbook or poll list as if he had been present and voted in person.  If voting machines are used, all absentee ballots shall be placed in the ballot box before any ballots are counted, and the election managers in each precinct shall immediately count such absentee ballots and add them to the votes cast in the voting machine or device.

     SECTION 30.  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 31.  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.