Hosemann predicts low voter turnout

Published 12:04 pm Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Absentee voting in Mississippi is disappointingly down from the last presidential election and turnout might be below 50 percent, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, said Tuesday.

Hosemann, who supervises Mississippi elections, said more than 71,500 people asked for absentee ballots and may either vote at circuit court clerks’ offices before noon Saturday or have the ballots at circuit court clerks’ offices by 5 p.m. Monday.

About 106,700 requested absentee ballots in 2012, when 1.1 million of Mississippi’s 1.8 million registered voters participated.

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This year’s lower absentee requests could forecast a turnout of about 800,000, he said during a news conference. “That would be less than half of the eligible voters.”

Hosemann, who first took office in 2008, said election officials also have been asking a question that’s new to him: Whether people can change votes cast in absentee ballots.

“You cannot go to the circuit clerk and change your ballot, but you can go to the poll and vote on Election Day,” he said. If people who already have submitted absentee ballots vote at the polls on Nov. 8, their absentee ballots will be marked “rejected” and will not be counted, Hosemann said.

He said poll watchers from his office will be in 32 counties from the Tennessee state line to the coast, and the state attorney general’s office will have 17 working in blocks of several counties each. Both major parties have agreed that their poll-watchers will carry signed authorization letters on official letterhead, and state Supreme Court candidates have also been told of that requirement, he said.

“We just don’t want any disruptions from one side or another,” Hosemann said in a brief telephone interview after the news conference.

He repeated several times that Mississippi’s elections are not rigged and cannot be hacked.

“For the umpteenth time I want to tell everybody our voting machines are not linked to the internet. The Russians are not going to steal your vote,” he said.

Hosemann said people try to hack into the state’s election management system 4,000 to 5,000 times a month, looking for voters’ personal information.

He said that after federal Homeland Security officials told him it would be months before their office could test Mississippi’s system, he hired experts to try to break in electronically, and they failed.

The experts gave the security system good ratings, Hosemann said.

He said he began paying really close attention to the system’s firewalls after former CIA employee Edward Snowden began leaking classified information in 2013.