2011 Voter Guide | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

2011 Voter Guide

With state primary elections on Aug. 2, the general election on Nov. 8 and national elections in 2012, it is important to know when, where and how to vote. Read on to learn more about how you can help change society with your choices.

In Mississippi, you must be a mentally competent U.S. citizen and at least 18 years old by Election Day. Voters must also live in their city for at least 30 days prior to Election Day (you can vote by absentee ballot in your former city if not) and have no convictions for murder, rape, bribery, burglary, theft, arson, obtaining money or goods under false pretenses, perjury, forgery, embezzlement or bigamy (unless you have received a pardon or had your rights of citizenship restored).

To vote, you must be registered at least 30 days prior to an election. Although it's not required, make sure to have a photo ID with you at the polls just in case there is a problem. Remember to take off any campaign paraphernalia before entering; failing to do so can result in being turned away.

If you have problems at the polls, call: The U.S. Justice Department, 800-253-3931; The Mississippi Secretary of State's Office Election Hotline, 800-829-6786; Mississippi Protection and Advocacy System (for disabled voters), 800-772-4057; Protect the Vote hotline, 1-888-601-VOTE. Also call the Jackson Free Press newsroom: 601-362-6121 ext. 14 or 16.

About the Primaries
A voter can only vote in one primary, but you do not have to vote in your registered party's primary. A vote in a primary is not dependent on and does not affect your party affiliation; however, you have to choose either Democrat or Republican for the primaries. If primary run-offs become necessary, you can only vote along the same party line that you chose for the initial primary, although you can choose a different candidate. You do not have to vote for your primary candidate in the general election.

How to Register
Download a voter-registration form from the Mississippi Secretary of State website (http://www.sos.ms.gov). You can also visit your Circuit Court in the county courthouse or the Municipal Court, which is usually in City Hall. In most cases, circuit clerks and municipal clerks are available to register voters between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. For Hinds County, the clerk's office is located at the county court house (407 E. Pascagoula St.). For the city of Jackson, you can also register with the Municipal Clerk located at city hall (219 S. President St.). Bring a copy of a current photo ID and a current utility bill or other statement showing proof of your address if you do not have a driver's license or Social Security card.

It's too late to register and vote in the primaries. You can, however, vote in the general election if you register by Oct. 9.

Where to Vote
Your voter registration card shows your precinct number and an address for voting. If you misplace your card, ask a neighbor, or go to Vote 411 and click on Polling Place Locator. You can also call the clerk's office in your city or county: in the city of Jackson, call 601-960-1035; in Hinds County, 601-968-6628; in Madison County, 601-859-4365; in Rankin County, 601-825-1466.

You must live in the county in which you are registered to vote or use an absentee ballot. Check with your county's voter registrar for information on absentee ballots. The last day to vote by absentee ballot in the Circuit Clerk's office for the primary election is July 30 by noon. The last day for the general election is Nov. 5 by noon.

Absentee Ballots and Disability Voting Information
Absentee ballots returned by mail must be completed in front of a notary public, United States postmaster, assistant United States postmaster, United States postal supervisor, clerk in charge of a contract postal station, or any officer having authority to administer an oath or take an acknowledgment as an attesting witness. The county registrar can also serve as a witness. After marking the ballot, the voter must fill out and sign the Elector's Certificate, while the attesting witness is required to fill out and sign the Certificate of Attesting Witness.

The Circuit Clerk must receive mailed absentee ballots for the 2011 Primary Election no later than 5 p.m. Aug. 1. For the general election in November, mailed absentee ballots must be received by 5 p.m. Nov. 7.

Those who are blind, physically disabled or unable to read or write can request assistance to vote from the polling manager. If you are disabled, you can also request to vote curbside, although not all voting machines can be taken to a vehicle. Permanently disabled people can register for the disabled voter list with a signed doctor's statement to automatically receive absentee ballots for every election. Others can bring someone to the polls to help them vote.

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