By Jack Gurner
WATER VALLEY – Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said that the number of absentee ballots cast during the recent city election was higher than it should be and the voter turnout was disappointingly low.
Hosemann made his comments during a brief stop in Yalobusha County last Thursday.
He said in some Mississippi cities the turnout was below 40 percent and as little as 20 to 30 percent. Hosemann took notes when told that turnout in Water Valley was a little less than 25 percent and the number of absentee ballots ran about eight percent.
“We’re gathering information now on other cities where we have more than 10-15 percent of their votes cast by absentee ballots,” Hosemann said. He gave as an example the 42 percent of all ballots cast in the Macon Democratic primary were by absentee.
“There is significant absentee ballot fraud in the state,” he added. Earlier in the day, Hosemann had issued a news release renewing his call for ballot reform in Mississippi. “We’ve been talking about this for the last two years.”
Hosemann said that absentee ballots should be allowed for servicemen, the elderly, and the disabled, but not just because someone doesn’t want to stand in line or because it is a little inconvenient.
He also commented on residency concerns saying people who don’t live in an area should not be voting on issues that affect that area.
Hosemann said filing homestead exemption in one place does not necessarily mean that a person cannot vote in another. Determining a voter’s residency should take several factors into account and homestead exemption status is one. “Where you got to bed at night and where you keep your dog” should be taken into consideration, he said.
“The criteria is made by the county election commission,” said Hosemann. “So you could conceivably have multiple homes, or two houses, and still be qualified to vote in an election.”
Hosemann added he would like to see the Legislature increase the penalties for voter fraud. Currently, voter fraud is punishable by up to five years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines.
State Democratic Party leaders have said Hosemann, a Republican, is playing politics with his attempts at ballot reform and voter ID.
“The secretary of state would better serve the people of Mississippi by relating his concerns to the attorney general instead of grandstanding to the press, especially in light of the fact that he offered not one shred of evidence that anything illegal took place in any election,” State Democratic Party Chairman Jamie Franks said in a statement.