Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson has outlined his plan for ensuring citizen’s safety during the upcoming General Election Tuesday, Nov. 3, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While we hope to have this in our rearview mirror before the upcoming elections, I realize we must act now,” Watson said in a statement. “Your right to vote should not be among the pandemic’s victims.”
Watson said he has consulted with election commissioners and circuit clerks across the state to develop a plan that maintains the integrity of elections, focuses on the well-being of citizens “and upholds Mississippi’s steadfast conservative values.”
Included in the plan is additional poll worker training regarding proper sanitation and social distancing, and he expects to offer the full training course online.
“Due to the expected need for more poll workers, we are asking Election Commissioners to fully utilize the current student internship program, and we are looking into potential partnerships with colleges and universities to incentivize students to work on Election Day,” he said.
Watson added that a key component of the plan is urging the legislature to adopt an additional absentee excuse to allow Mississippians to absentee vote in person when they are subject to a state of emergency declared by the governor or president.
“Authorizing voters to vote in-person absentee when under a state of emergency will lead to our office partnering even closer with circuit clerks to possibly expand curbside absentee voting to help limit the spread of COVID-19 on Election Day,” he said.
He also wants counties to be able to hire temporary staff to meet the increased demand by using funds from federal COVID-19 relief funds to offset some of the increased costs of administering elections during the pandemic.
“I want Mississippians to understand this is not a ploy to implement early voting, but a temporary way to permit those who are most at risk of contracting COVID-19 a safe opportunity to exercise their right to vote,” Watson said.
“Election Day itself will look a little different than usual, but I assure you the security of your vote and your wellness are our top priorities. We may consider temporary outdoor facilities if traditional polling locations are not available. By voting in an open-air environment, vulnerable populations would be safer, and it would ensure compliance with proper social distancing measures. Some of these measures include safe capacity limits, “one-in, one-out” lines, cleaning machines between each use, disposable marking devices for touch screens and providing readily available sanitizing stations. We also plan to make sure all poll workers have the necessary personal protective equipment and are in communication with our universities and private businesses about partnering to provide these resources.
“While the state may be tightening its belt on many nonessential operations, enforcement of election law is not one of them.”
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