Mississippi Can Go Blue, or Purple, if Turnout High, Black Caucus Says | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Mississippi Can Go Blue, or Purple, if Turnout High, Black Caucus Says

Rep. John Hines, D-Greenville, encouraged voters from all over the state to get out to vote and help turn Mississippi from red to blue.

Rep. John Hines, D-Greenville, encouraged voters from all over the state to get out to vote and help turn Mississippi from red to blue. Photo by Arielle Dreher.

— Members of the Legislative Black Caucus are encouraging Mississippians to vote on Nov. 8, not only in the presidential contest but for the sake of other races on the ballot.

Caucus chairwoman Rep. Sonya Williams-Barnes, D-Gulfport, pointed to 2011 when the Democrats lost control of the Mississippi House of Representatives. Her message was that voters need to turn out in every election to avert catastrophe.

"This led to many things that we are suffering from today, like not expanding Medicaid, closure of different agencies within the state, and so we're encouraging Democratic members of our state, to get out and vote," Williams-Barnes said on Friday.

In the last presidential election, Mississippi voters turned out in record numbers, the second highest turnout in the state's history ever; the highest voter turnout in the state was in 2008 when Barack Obama was first on the ballot. More than 1.285 million Mississippians voted in 2012.

If Mississippi's absentee ballots are an indication of turnout, 2016 could be similar to 2012. As of Friday, the secretary of state's office had requested 95,976 absentee ballots and still had another day to fulfill new requests. In 2012, the secretary of state's office issued more than 106,000 absentee ballots. At the start of last week, requests for absentee ballots were down, but picked up by the end of the week. Today, the secretary or state's office announced that 112,529 absentee ballots have been requested. This is about 6,000 more than in 2012.

"The surge in requests is a good indication turnout may reach 2012 levels—or beyond," Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said in a press release Friday. "When more Mississippians participate in elections by taking the time to cast a ballot, the entire nation wins. Our United States began with the right to cast our ballots and will be maintained by casting our ballots on Election Day."

Rep. John Hines, D-Greenville, encouraged the state's African American voters to help turn the state from red to blue on Friday, citing the struggle for voting rights in past decades.

"For many years people gave their lives, their hard-earned money, and time to ensure that African Americans have a part in this state and this country, and we're here to encourage us to turn this state from red to blue," Hines said.

Rep. Alyce Clarke, D-Jackson, the first African American woman to serve in the state Legislature, stressed the importance of voting and said she thinks that Mississippi can at least turn purple. Clarke said she is not just voting for Hillary Clinton because she's a woman.

"I am not just voting for her because she's a woman. I'm voting for her because she's the best person," Clarke said on Friday.

Lawmakers stressed that the election will not be rigged, echoing what Hosemann has also said leading up to Nov. 8.

More than 1.86 million Mississippians are registered to vote in the election on Tuesday. Close to 2.26 million Mississippians are of eligible voting age, however. Part of this discrepancy is likely due to Mississippi's tough disenfranchisement laws for Mississippians convicted of certain felonies.

The deadline to vote in-person by absentee ballot was Saturday, and mailed absentee ballots must be received by 5 p.m. tonight. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 8. Voters must bring a valid form of voter ID with them to their polling place. You can find your polling place online at the Secretary of State's website.

Update: This story has been updated to reflect the large number of absentee ballots requested for the 2016 presidential election. So far, 112,529 absentee ballots have been requested; this is about 6,000 more than in the 2012 presidential election.

Email state reporter Arielle Dreher at [email protected] and follow her at @arielle_amara on election night for updates.

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