Friday, March 4, 2016
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi voters could register online and vote in person ahead of elections under a bill moving forward in the Legislature.
House members voted Thursday to pass three bills that would rewrite Mississippi's election laws, a proposal pushed by Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann.
The package moves to the Senate for more work. Similar Senate legislation died when the body didn't take it up Thursday before a deadline for action.
House Bill 809 would allow voters to register or change their information online, instead of requiring them to send in a postcard or appear in person. People can already register to vote online in more than half the states.
House Bill 796 would allow voters to cast ballots during a 14-day period before any election at their county circuit clerk's office. Now, voters must offer a reason allowed under the state's absentee law to vote early. Voters could still mail in absentee ballots for other reasons, including those who are older than 65, disabled, in the military or temporarily living outside the country.
"We were making voters lie to the circuit clerk to vote absentee," said Hosemann, a Republican, who said many voters would claim they would be outside the county on election day.
The most comprehensive measure, House Bill 797, also requires political candidates to itemize credit card expenses over $200 on campaign finance reports. The Senate passed a separate bill to require such itemization Wednesday.
The main bill would require election commissioners to be elected on staggered terms, instead of all at once in presidential years as they are now. In November 2020, voters would elect three commissioners for four-year terms and two for six-year terms. After that period, each will be elected for four-year terms, with two elected during congressional elections. It would also disqualify any election commissioner who doesn't complete annual training.
The measure also provides for additional training for poll managers, with the goal of placing a certified poll manager in every polling place by 2018.
The bill didn't make some of the changes that Hosemann sought. For example, it rejected his call to move Mississippi's presidential primary to the first Tuesday in March, instead leaving it on the second Tuesday in March.