Biggest election in United States history means long lines

Lee County deputy circuit clerk Dawn Coon instructs Jonathan Grose on how to test ballot collecting machines Tuesday in preparation for next week's election.  

Only days away and tens of millions of voters have already cast their ballots in what is being called the biggest election in United States history. And Lee County is no exception. Although Mississippi is the only state in the union that does not allow mail-in voting, it does allow early absentee voting for voters who meet certain conditions. Those voters have been lining the hall of the Lee County Justice Center since absentee voting opened on October 21. Lee County Circuit Clerk Camille Roberts Dulaney said Tuesday morning that more than 4,100 absentee ballots had been cast. That figure includes in-person voting and mail-in absentee ballots, which is allowed in Mississippi: “They were lined up outside starting at 7 a.m.,” Dulaney said of the crowds she has encountered. Her office does not open until 8 a.m. On Tuesday, Lee County deputy circuit clerk Dawn Coon oversaw the testing of the county’s 54 ballot counting machines; she was assisted by Jayland Carouthers and Jonathan Grose. Each machine had to be tested for operational readiness prior to being delivered to the county’s 36 voting precincts. A palette stacked with boxes of ballots that were to be placed into bags according to the number of registered voters in each precinct sat amidst the machines. Coon said ballots were ordered for all the county’s registered voters, more than 56,000, a substantial increase from elections past. Polls are open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. on Tuesday, November 3. The circuit clerk’s office will be open for in-person absentee voting this Saturday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Nationally, the widespread interest in the election appears to be driven by the presidential race between incumbent Republican Donald Trump and Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden. There are also at least seven other third-party candidates on the Mississippi ballots. Another closely watched race in the state is for the seat of junior U.S. senator between incumbent Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith and Democratic challenger Mike Espy, former congressman and secretary of agriculture. Jimmy L. Edwards is also a candidate from the Libertarian Party. Incumbent Republican U.S. Representative Trent Kelly is being challenged by Democratic contender Antonia Eliason. Also on the Mississippi ballots is the referendum for approval of medical marijuana in the state. It is a somewhat complex issue as presented on the ballot. Voters seeking approval of the measure should vote “For” on Number 65. Then they must vote for either Number 65 or 65A, which would greatly restrict the availability. Voters will be able to decide on a Miss. House resolution that would do away with an archaic rule regarding election of statewide officials that required a vote of House members in the event a candidate did not receive a clear majority of votes in the election. The new proposed state flag is also on the ballot; simply vote “yes” or “no” to decide whether the flag is officially adopted. Lee County voters will also select a justice for the Mississippi Supreme Court District 3; the nonpartisan race is between Josiah Coleman and Percy Lynchard. Lee County Election Commission members are also on the ballot, though the five incumbents have no opposition in the race: They are Republicans Carl Patterson, Shelia Lansdell, Jim Jackson and Joe Hester and Democrat Jacque Grayson. One Lee County School Board member, also running unopposed, is up for reelection in the nonpartisan race: Sherry Mask.

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