2020 Regular Session
To: Apportionment and Elections
By: Representative Beckett
AN ACT TO AMEND SECTION 23-15-637, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO PROVIDE THAT ABSENTEE BALLOTS RECEIVED BY MAIL MUST BE POSTMARKED BY THE DATE OF THE ELECTION AND RECEIVED BY THE REGISTRAR NO MORE THAN FIVE BUSINESS DAYS AFTER THE ELECTION; TO AMEND SECTIONS 23-15-721 AND 23-15-631, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO CONFORM TO THE PRECEDING SECTION; TO AMEND SECTION 23-15-649, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO PROVIDE THAT WHEN THE DEADLINE FOR THE QUALIFICATION OF CANDIDATES HAS PASSED OR FORTY-FIVE DAYS BEFORE THE ELECTION, WHICHEVER IS LATER, THE ABSENTEE BALLOTS SHALL BE PRINTED ON PAPER OF DIFFERENT TINTS OR COLORS AND SHALL BE STYLED SO AS TO SHOW WHICH BALLOT IS TO BE USED FOR THE FIRST ELECTION AND WHICH BALLOT IS TO BE USED FOR THE SECOND ELECTION; TO PROVIDE THAT NO ADDITIONAL BALLOTS SHALL BE MAILED TO THE ABSENTEE VOTER; TO AMEND SECTIONS 23-15-629, 23-15-715 AND 23-15-755, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO CONFORM TO THE PRECEDING SECTION; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. Section 23-15-637, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
23-15-637. Absentee ballots
received by mail, except presidential ballots as provided for in Sections 23-15-731
and 23-15-733 and except as otherwise provided by Section 23-15-699, must be * * *
postmarked by the date of the election and received by
the registrar no more than five (5) business days after the election; any
received after such time shall be handled as provided in Section 23-15-647 and
shall not be counted. All ballots cast by the absent elector appearing in
person in the office of the registrar shall be cast not later than 12:00 noon
on the Saturday immediately preceding elections held on Tuesday, the Thursday
immediately preceding elections held on Saturday, or the second day immediately
preceding the date of elections held on other days. The registrar shall
deposit all absentee ballots which have been timely cast in the ballot boxes
SECTION 2. Section 23-15-721, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
23-15-721. (1) Electors temporarily residing outside the county and obtaining an absentee ballot under the provisions of paragraph (b) of Section 23-15-715 shall appear before any official authorized to administer oaths or other official authorized to witness absentee balloting as provided in this chapter. The elector shall exhibit to such official his absentee ballot unmarked and thereupon proceed in secret to fill in his ballot. After the elector has properly marked the ballot and properly folded it, he shall deposit it in the envelope furnished him. After he has sealed the envelope he shall deliver it to the official before whom he is appearing and shall subscribe and swear to the elector's certificate provided for in Section 23-15-635, which affidavit shall be printed on the back of the envelope as provided for in Section 23-15-635.
(2) Electors who are temporarily or permanently physically disabled shall sign the elector's certificate and the certificate of attesting witness shall be signed by any person eighteen (18) years of age or older.
(3) After the completion of
the requirements of this section, the elector shall mail the envelope
containing the ballot to the registrar in the county wherein said elector is
qualified to vote. Except as otherwise provided by Section 23-15-699 and
excluding presidential ballots as provided for in Sections 23-15-731 and 23-15-733,
the ballots must be * * *
by the date of the election and received by the registrar no more than five (5)
business days after the election to be counted.
SECTION 3. Section 23-15-631, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
23-15-631. (1) The registrar shall enclose with each ballot provided to an absent elector separate printed instructions furnished by the registrar containing the following:
(a) All absentee voters, excepting those with temporary or permanent physical disabilities or those who are sixty-five (65) years of age or older, who mark their ballots in the county of the residence shall use the registrar of that county as the witness. The absentee voter shall come to the office of the registrar and neither the registrar nor his or her deputy shall be required to go out of the registrar's office to serve as an attesting witness.
(b) Upon receipt of the enclosed ballot, you will not mark the ballot except in view or sight of the attesting witness. In the sight or view of the attesting witness, mark the ballot according to instructions.
(c) After marking the
ballot, fill out and sign the "ELECTOR'S CERTIFICATE" on the back of
the envelope so that the signature is across the flap of the envelope to ensure
the integrity of the ballot. All absent electors shall have the attesting
witness sign the "ATTESTING WITNESS CERTIFICATE" across the flap on
the back of the envelope. Place the necessary postage on the envelope and
deposit it in the post office or some government receptacle provided for
deposit of mail so that the absent elector's ballot, excepting presidential
absentee ballots, will * * *
reach the registrar in which your precinct is located not later than 5:00
p.m. on the day preceding the date of the election postmarked by
the date of the election and received by the registrar no more than five (5)
business days after the election.
Any notary public, United States postmaster, assistant United States postmaster, United States postal supervisor, clerk in charge of a contract postal station, or other officer having authority to administer an oath or take an acknowledgment may be an attesting witness; provided, however, that in the case of an absent elector who is temporarily or permanently physically disabled, the attesting witness may be any person eighteen (18) years of age or older and such person is not required to have the authority to administer an oath. If a postmaster, assistant postmaster, postal supervisor, or clerk in charge of a contract postal station acts as an attesting witness, his or her signature on the elector's certificate must be authenticated by the cancellation stamp of their respective post offices. If an officer having authority to administer an oath or take an acknowledgement acts as attesting witness, his or her signature on the elector's certificate, together with his or her title and address, but no seal, shall be required. Any affidavits made by an absent elector who is in the Armed Forces may be executed before a commissioned officer, warrant officer, or noncommissioned officer not lower in grade than sergeant rating or any person authorized to administer oaths.
(d) When the application accompanies the ballot it shall not be returned in the same envelope as the ballot but shall be returned in a separate preaddressed envelope provided by the registrar.
(e) A candidate for public office, or the spouse, parent or child of a candidate for public office, may not be an attesting witness for any absentee ballot upon which the candidate's name appears, unless the voter is related within the first degree to the candidate or the spouse, parent or child of the candidate.
(f) Any voter casting an absentee ballot who declares that he or she requires assistance to vote by reason of blindness, temporary or permanent physical disability or inability to read or write, shall be entitled to receive assistance in the marking of his or her absentee ballot and in completing the affidavit on the absentee ballot envelope. The voter may be given assistance by anyone of the voter's choice other than a candidate whose name appears on the absentee ballot being marked, the spouse, parent or child of a candidate whose name appears on the absentee ballot being marked or the voter's employer, an agent of that employer or a union representative; however, a candidate whose name is on the ballot or the spouse, parent or child of such candidate may provide assistance upon request to any voter who is related within the first degree. In order to ensure the integrity of the ballot, any person who provides assistance to an absentee voter shall be required to sign and complete the "Certificate of Person Providing Voter Assistance" on the absentee ballot envelope.
(2) The foregoing instructions required to be provided by the registrar to the elector shall also constitute the substantive law pertaining to the handling of absentee ballots by the elector and registrar.
(3) The Secretary of State shall prepare instructions on how absent voters may comply with the identification requirements of Section 23-15-563.
SECTION 4. Section 23-15-649, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
23-15-649. (1) For
all elections, there shall be prepared and printed by the officials charged
with this duty with respect to the election, as soon as the deadline for the
qualification of candidates has passed or forty-five (45) days * * *
before the election, whichever is
later, official ballots for each voting precinct to be known as absentee voter
ballots, * * *
and both ballots shall be prepared and printed in the same form and
shall be of the same size and texture as the regular official ballot * * * . However,
such ballots shall be printed on paper of different tints or colors and shall
be styled so as to show which ballot is to be used for the first election and
which ballot is to be used for the second election.
(2) When the proper application is made as is otherwise provided in this article, the registrar shall send to the absent voter the proper absent voter ballots for the elections as provided in subsection (1) of this section, and with such ballots there shall be sent also separate official envelopes for the return thereof. No additional ballot shall be thereafter sent to the absent voter for the second election but the absent voter shall ascertain which of the candidates who originally qualified are candidates in the second election and he or she may vote for his or her choice between them on the second election ballot previously sent. If an absentee voter shall vote for any candidate on the second election ballot who is not a candidate in the second election, his or her vote for that office shall be disregarded.
SECTION 5. Section 23-15-629, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
23-15-629. (1) The application for an absentee ballot of a person who is permanently physically disabled shall be accompanied by a statement signed by such person's physician, or nurse practitioner, which statement must show that the person signing the statement is a licensed, practicing medical doctor or nurse practitioner and must indicate that the person applying for the absentee ballot is permanently physically disabled to such a degree that it is difficult for him to vote in person.
(2) An application accompanied by the statement provided for in subsection (1) of this section shall entitle such permanently physically disabled person to automatically receive an absentee ballot for all elections on a continuing basis without the necessity for reapplication.
(3) The registrar of each
county shall keep an accurate list of the names and addresses of all persons
whose applications for absentee ballot are accompanied by the statement set
forth in subsection (1) of this section. Sixty (60) days * * *
before each election, the
registrar shall deliver such list to the election commissioners * * * who shall examine the list and
delete from it the names of all persons listed who are no longer qualified
electors of the county. Upon completion of such examination, the election
commissioners * * * shall return the list to the registrar by no later than
forty-five (45) days * * * before the election.
(4) The registrar shall
send a ballot to all persons who are determined by the election
commissioners * * *
to be qualified electors pursuant to subsection (3) of this
section by no later than forty (40) days * * * before the election.
SECTION 6. Section 23-15-715, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
23-15-715. Any elector desiring an absentee ballot as provided in this subarticle may secure same if:
(a) Not more than forty-five (45) days nor later than 12:00 noon on the Saturday immediately preceding elections held on Tuesday, the Thursday immediately preceding elections held on Saturday, or the second day immediately preceding the date of elections held on other days, he shall appear in person before the registrar of the county in which he resides, or for municipal elections he shall appear in person before the city clerk of the municipality in which he resides and, when the elector so appears, he shall execute and file an application as provided in Section 23-15-627 and vote by absentee ballot, except that if the ballot has not been printed by forty-five (45) days preceding the election, the elector may appear and file an application anytime before the election. Then the absentee ballot shall be mailed by the circuit clerk to the elector as soon as the ballot has been printed as provided in Section 23-15-649.
(b) Within forty-five
(45) days next * * *
before any election, any elector who cannot comply with paragraph
(a) of this section by reason of temporarily residing outside the county, or
any person who has a temporary or permanent physical disability, persons who
are sixty-five (65) years of age or older, or any person who is the parent,
spouse or dependent of a temporarily or permanently physically disabled person
who is hospitalized outside of his county of residence or more than fifty (50)
miles away from his residence and such parent, spouse or dependent will be with
such person on election day, may make application for an absentee ballot by
mailing the appropriate application to the registrar. Only persons temporarily
residing out of the county of their residence, persons having a temporary or
permanent physical disability, persons who are sixty-five (65) years of age or
older, or any person who is the parent, spouse or dependent of a temporarily or
permanently physically disabled person who is hospitalized outside of his
county of residence or more than fifty (50) miles away from his residence, and such
parent, spouse or dependent will be with such person on election day, may
obtain absentee ballots by mail under the provisions of this * * * paragraph and as provided by
Section 23-15-713 and Section 23-15-649. Applications of persons
temporarily residing outside the county shall be sworn to and subscribed before
an official who is authorized to administer oaths or other official authorized
to witness absentee balloting as provided in this chapter, said application to
be accompanied by such verifying affidavits as required by this chapter. The
applications of persons having a temporary or permanent physical disability
shall not be required to be accompanied by an affidavit but shall be witnessed
and signed by a person eighteen (18) years of age or older. The registrar
shall send to such absent voter a proper absentee voter ballot as provided
in Section 23-15-649 within twenty-four (24) hours, or as soon thereafter
as the ballots are available, containing the names of all candidates who
qualify or the proposition to be voted on in such election, and with such
ballot there shall be sent an official envelope containing upon it in printed
form the recitals and data hereinafter required.
SECTION 7. Section 23-15-755, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
23-15-755. All of the provisions of Sections 23-15-621 through 23-15-735 shall be applicable, insofar as possible, to municipal, primary, preferential, general, runoff and special elections, and wherever herein any duty is imposed or any power or authority is conferred upon the county registrar, county election commissioners, or county executive committee with reference to a state and county election, such duty shall likewise be imposed and such power and authority shall likewise be conferred upon the municipal registrar, municipal election commission or municipal executive committee with reference to any municipal election. Any duty, obligation or responsibility imposed upon the registrar or upon the election commissioners, when applicable, shall likewise be conferred upon and devolved upon the appropriate party, executive committee or officials in any party primary.
SECTION 8. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2020.