Toni Johnson, Hinds County Election Commission Chair. Photo courtesy Vote Toni Johnson Campaign
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Hinds County Election Commission announced the temporary relocation of four voting precinct locations in Jackson and Clinton for the June 23 Republican 2nd U.S. Congregational District runoff to conform to Mississippi Secretary of State's Office and Center for Disease Control election processes guidelines. The commission will inform affected voters via U.S. postal mail.
The onset of the coronavirus pandemic led to the postponement of the runoff between Brian Flowers and Carey Thomas earlier scheduled for March 31. The winner will, on Nov. 3, take on the incumbent Bennie Thompson, D-Bolton, in the position since 1993, winning 72 percent of the vote in 2018.
The location changes affected two precincts in Jackson, for Districts 1 and 3, and two in Clinton, for District 2.
The pandemic has disproportionately affected the elderly, hitting their care facilities the hardest since the beginning earlier this year.
"Current recommended guidance from the Mississippi Secretary of State's Office and the CDC regarding elections processes is that polling locations housed in nursing homes and senior care facilities be relocated to mitigate the spread of COVID-19," a June 8 statement from the commission said. "Also, as a precautionary measure to further reduce the chances of individuals contracting the virus, there are some local churches that normally provide space for voting precincts that are currently closed to the public."
With the temporary arrangement, as noted in the Board of Supervisors Meeting agenda on June 15, Ascension Luther Church at 6481 Old Canton Road, Jackson, is the location for voting precinct 46. It used to be at Christ United Methodist Church 6000 Old Canton Road, Jackson.
Voting Precincts C1 and PN at First Baptist Church Activity Building, 100 E. College Street, Clinton and Federation Towers, 301 Federation Towers Drive, Clinton respectively, are both temporarily moved to Summer Hill Junior High 400W. Northside Drive, Clinton.
Precinct 26, previously hosted in True Worship Ministry, 5019 Clinton Blvd, Jackson, will find a temporary location at Fire Station 15, 4943 Clinton Blvd, Jackson.
The above is a temporary arrangement only for the runoff.
2020 Presidential Election
The presidential election, in light of COVID-19, will also be different this year, based on the commission’s plans to ensure the safety of both the workers and the voters that day.
Not only will 50,000 masks be distributed to voters who do not have one in all the 108 voting precincts, but the commission is adding 25 additional voting machines to precincts notable for larger turnouts.
"The commission has ordered additional tables and chairs to accommodate social distancing recommendations of six feet for poll works in each precinct; disposable ink pen per voter when completing their ballot to address cross-contamination concerns; disposable towelettes for each voter to sanitize their voter identification," the statement said.
There will be additional workers hired with funds from the federal government’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act for hourly sanitation on Election Day, and each precinct will have Lysol, hand sanitizers, bleach wipes and gloves. To avoid long lines, the commission identified off-peak hours to be 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., noon to 2 p.m., and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
"All Hinds County voters are encouraged to immediately contact the Hinds County Election Commission at 601-968-6555, if they have moved and need to update their address, need to confirm their voting precinct, have any questions about the upcoming elections and the voting process," it added.
Email story tips to city/county reporter Kayode Crown at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @kayodecrown.