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Early voting bill advances in Mississippi Senate

A Senate committee on Tuesday advanced a measure that would allow Mississippi voters to cast ballots — in person — for 15 days prior to an election, including the Saturday before.

“Mississippi is one of only three states that doesn’t allow early voting,” said Senate Elections Chairman Jeremy England, a Republican from Vancleave and author of SB2580. “… This just allows more access to the ballot in a very secure way … This would help so many — doctors, first responders, others, some single parents.”

The bill passed the committee on a voice vote Tuesday, the deadline for such action on the bill.

Mississippi allows in-person absentee voting before elections, but voters must meet criteria, such as being over 65 or disabled, or provide one of a handful of valid “excuses,” such as being out of town for work on election day and follow a long list of rules and procedures. The new measure would allow “no-excuse” voting for all registered voters.

England said the new system would replace in-person absentee voting, but that mail-in absentee ballots would still be accepted.

Voters using the new early system would have to cast their ballots at their circuit clerk’s office, England said, and provide a valid voter ID as they must now do on Election Day.

England said early voting would include a half-day on the Saturday before a primary or election.

Sen. Hob Bryan said having to go to the clerk’s office could be a problem for some people who live a long distance from their county seat and that more places should be made available for the early voting. England said that might be possible in the future if the measure is passed.

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