HPNM

MFP Trusted Elections Project Again Interrogates Mississippi Voting-Precinct Systems

Several years ago, back when I ran the Jackson Free Press and the Mississippi Free Press was still a someday/maybe dream, a friend told me about the problem of voting locations moving in his family’s area of Rankin County without warning. He described his local precinct suddenly closing, forcing his family to go into a white area where they, as Black voters, weren’t happy to visit because of a high concentration of Aryan Nation gang members in the vicinity.

He believed it was a sneaky attempt at voter intimidation.

That was the first time I really started thinking about the kinds of voter suppression that could be hiding inside Mississippi’s counties with basically no sunshine or media scrutiny. But I didn’t have the resources then to put a team on it. After Kimberly Griffin and I started the statewide Mississippi Free Press in 2020, though, I started talking to our-then-only-reporter Ashton Pittman about the precinct project and applying for grants to help us do this work statewide.

By fall 2020, we had an American Press Institute grant to help our Mississippi Trusted Elections team do what turned out to be inordinate and tedious work to fact-check the state’s list of voting precincts, addresses, and various errors and changes.

Precinct System Was and Is a Mess

Our hunch was right: The precinct system was and is a mess, and the lack of good, consistent information has made voting harder and more frustrating in Mississippi probably through our entire existence as a state.

Are shifting voting locations and outdated intentional suppression? Or is it about poor systems and oversight and general half-assed “good enough” approaches that too often make excellence in Mississippi so difficult? I suspect it’s a combination of both. Because, you know, why wouldn’t every damn election official burn the midnight oil to fact-check and fix the problems before every Election Day if they wanted everyone to vote?

I’ll leave folks to answer that question for yourselves. But what we know is that, in 2020, poll changes in Madison County caused massive problems on Election Day, which Ashton and his

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