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In-Person Early Voting Can Increase Election Integrity and Voting Opportunities for Mississippians

This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune.

Sen. Jeremy England, R-Vancleave, presents legislation in the Senate Chamber at the Mississippi Capitol in Jackson, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023. Lawmakers in both chambers are considering bills that survived their committee deadline. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

  • State Sen. Jeremy England (R) writes that the Magnolia State is one of only three states in the nation not to offer in-person early voting. He says it is time to change that.

Mississippi voters deserve secure elections with integrity where every ballot is counted as cast. And having secure and transparent elections doesn’t have to mean limiting the sacred right to vote. That’s why I’m proud to be introducing a bill that will bring in-person early voting opportunities to Mississippians. 

Our state is one of only three in the nation not to offer in-person early voting, and it is time we change that. This proposal can ensure Mississippians who are busy with work, school, or family commitments, as well as seniors, people with disabilities, and voters who live in rural areas, will be able to cast their ballot on their schedule. It would also bring us in line with other conservative states like Texas, Florida, and Louisiana. 

Offering in-person early voting options also does not come at the expense of election security. In fact, this proposal will make use of the checks and balances our election system already has in place. Under my proposal, Mississippians who would vote early in-person would be required to show their valid photo ID and have their registration status checked, just like voting on Election Day. Another layer of security is that all in- person early voting would take place at the local clerk’s office, where trained, professional election administrators will oversee the process. 

Finally, after showing their ID, having their registration checked, and filling out their ballots at their local clerk’s office, early in-person voters would place their ballot directly in the ballot scanner so they can have the confidence that it will be counted as cast. And the results will not be tabulated and reported until after polls close at 7pm on Election Day. 

In-person early voting is also not a partisan issue, which is why I plan on working to get support for this bill from my colleagues of both parties in the legislature. I’m proud to join Republicans across the country in supporting early voting, including former President Trump who recently encouraged his supporters to “commit to vote early.” 

This policy is very popular with voters of all political stripes. In fact, a recent poll found that 74% of Mississippians support offering in-person early voting to all voters, including 65% of my fellow Republicans in the state. Employers across the board, from healthcare to manufacturing to education, have expressed support for this policy as well. 

These new secure voting opportunities would benefit all Mississippians, particularly rural voters in our state. More than half of Mississippians live in rural areas, including where I live in Jackson County. Rural voters in other states rely heavily on early voting opportunities given polling places are often farther away from their homes or workplaces. Given the opportunity to vote early in-person will certainly benefit shift workers that have to get off work after a long day and travel an hour or so to their home precinct with hopes of arriving in time to vote on Election Day. 

In-person early voting can also give seniors and people with disabilities, who may have limited options to get to their polling place on Election Day, opportunities to cast their ballot, as well as everyday Mississippians who have work or childcare responsibilities on Election Day. College students can also vote by while home on one of the two Saturday mornings prior to Election Day, casting an actual ballot without worrying if they have properly filled out and secured an absentee ballot. 

I hope my colleagues and fellow Mississippians across the state will join me in supporting this secure option to expand voting opportunities and improve our elections for everyone. 

This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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