Change in Mississippi absentee voting garners allegations of voter suppression
October 20, 2008
State's voting rights history cited in absentee ballot fracas
Because absentee voting in Mississippi has recently (see below) and historically (see here) been riddled with problems, the announcement last week that extra postage was needed on envelopes to mail some of the ballots is being called an attempt at voter suppression by some, but officials say its an innocent mistake.
Large Envelopes, More Postage
This year, circuit clerks in some Mississippi counties are using large envelopes that require extra postage due to a new state law which requires that a lengthy sworn statement for the voter to sign be printed on the back of the envelope. This has led to fear of voter suppression by some. "Any misstep in the delivery of the election process will be viewed as suspect and questionable by voters, and it can in fact create an atmosphere of voter suppression," Mississippi  President Derrick Johnson said. The concerns were somewhat diminished after Postal Service spokesman Doug Kyle said letter carriers have been instructed to deliver every absentee ballot to county officials.
U.S. District Judge Tom S. Lee banned Noxubee County Democratic Chairman Ike Brown from running party primaries. Lee agreed with the U.S. Department of Justice that Brown had committed election fraud and discrimination to keep whites out of county government. The case alleged that absentee ballots cast by white voters had been rejected in Noxubee County elections, while ballots from black voters that contain similar or more serious defects have been accepted. The case is on appeal.
In June, Wilkinson County Circuit Judge Jim Persons ruled that efforts by Circuit Clerk Mon Cree Allen to prevent examination of ballot boxes after a Democratic primary election in August 2007 were "deliberate, intentional and concerted." Persons said Allen and Wilkinson County residents Patricia Delaney and Connie Hollins delayed the examination of questioned ballot boxes until the period allowed for contesting the election was almost over. Persons threw out absentee and affidavit ballots in several races and ordered a new primary.