County election officials in Mississippi have made changes to at least 97 polling places since the 2020 election, including 27 changes since the June 2022 primaries, a Mississippi Free Press investigation finds. During that period, officials have relocated precincts 63 times, closed 19 precincts and opened 12 new precincts.
In many cases, the changes were not reflected in the Statewide Elections Management System, the database that the Mississippi Secretary of State’s polling-place locator tool relies on to give voters accurate information, as of mid-October. Errors in SEMS risk sending voters to the wrong polling place, an issue many voters reported during the 2020 election.
Mississippi voters can see the precinct changes we have identified since June 2022 with the table below, which includes a search option. A separate table showing changes that officials made between the November 2020 general election and the June 2022 primaries is available here.
In an Oct. 31 letter to Mississippi county supervisors, election commissioners and circuit clerks, a coalition of eight civil-rights groups noted that election commissioners “are specifically responsible for submitting updates to SEMS regarding polling locations.”
“Commissioners must do so immediately. Under Mississippi law, Election Commissioners are responsible for electronically maintaining the voter rolls in the SEMS database and must update the rolls to reflect changes,” said the letter. Representatives of the Legal Defense Fund, the ACLU of Mississippi, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Mississippi NAACP, Disability Rights Mississippi, the Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable, One Voice and the Mississippi Center For Justice signed the letter.
The coalition previously sent a letters to Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson in the spring and in early October urging him to use his authority to issue rules requiring local election officials to ensure information in SEMS is accurate and up-to-date. In reply, he claimed he does not have the authority to do so without legislative action. He argues that Mississippi is a “bottom-up state” where his role is focused on overseeing elections and training local officials, but that counties are responsible for keeping information up-to-date, not the state. The civil-rights coalition disagrees.
“Without accurate reporting,
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