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House committee chairman kills early voting bill without a vote

Mississippi will remain one of only three states that does not have in-person early voting after a House committee chairman killed legislation last week.

House Elections Chairman Noah Sanford said in a committee meeting on Thursday that he will not bring up Senate Bill 2580. The bill would have allowed 15 days of no-excuse early voting before election day. Sanford said he received concerns over the plan from some county circuit clerks, the local officials who administer elections. 

“Some circuit clerks around the state had concerns that they might have to hire an additional deputy clerk to administer early voting,” Sanford said.

Instead, Sanford, a Republican from Collins, said he would like to conduct some hearings in the summer or fall to examine the issue further and allow circuit clerks and others to present information. He said that after the hearings he would be more open to passing early voting legislation. 

Mississippi currently 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.

But Mississippi does not have no-excuse absentee voting or any type of early voting. The Senate measure would have “no-excuse” voting for all registered voters and eliminate in-person absentee voting. It also would have required voters to present a valid photo ID to vote early.

Senate Elections Chairman Jeremy England, the author of the bill, said he was disappointed the measure did not advance in the House, given it overwhelmingly passed the Senate along bipartisan lines. 

“We’ll see it again, though,” said England, a Republican from Vancleave. “This is something I’m definitely interested in and something voters across the political spectrum are interested in.” 

House Speaker Jason White, a Republican from West who appointed Sanford to lead the Elections Committee, previously told Mississippi Today he was not opposed to early voting, but the policy was not a major priority for him. 

Even though Sanford did not bring the measure up for a vote, it’s possible lawmakers could amend related legislation to include early voting.

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