Absentee voting up in DeSoto

Magna Todd was one of many voters in DeSoto County who cast absentee votes on Friday. The deadline to vote absentee is Saturday at noon.

A record number of absentee ballots have been cast in next Tuesday's general election and special election.

By today at noon, DeSoto County Circuit Clerk officials estimate more than 2,800 individuals will have cast absentee ballots in advance of Tuesday's general election and special election. That number had reached more than 2,700 by late Friday afternoon.

In fact, this round of absentee voting has quadrupled the number of absentee votes cast in the last mid-term election four years ago, according to Dale Kelly Thompson, DeSoto Circuit Clerk.

"The Senate race is one of the biggest things on the ballot this year," Thompson said, referring to the special election to fill the seat of U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, who retired after serving in the U.S. Senate since 1978.

Additionally the other U.S. Senate race is on the ballot in the general election, for the seat currently held by U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker. A U.S. House seat - that currently is held by U.S. Rep. Trent Kelly - is also on the ballot.

An uncontested seat on the Mississippi Court of Appeals, uncontested circuit, county and chancery judgeships, with one contested race between incumbent Celeste Embrey Wilson and Stan Little in the Circuit Court District 17-1, Place 3 contest - are on the ballot along with two contested school board seats in District 3 and 4.

"I think the national news and the fact that President Trump came here has generated a lot of interest in the election," Thompson said. "It's also the ads on TV and more publications talking about the election. Your newspaper articles have helped spur interest."

The record number of absentee ballots has kept Thompson's office extremely busy, with today's noon deadline looming as the last day to cast an absentee ballot.

Under Mississippi law, duly registered voters may cast absentee ballots if they are going to absent from the county on election day, are physically infirm or otherwise unable to vote in person at the polling precinct on election day.

Longtime DeSoto County Election Commissioner Paul Beale who serves voters in the Olive Branch and eastern DeSoto County area said many new residents who move to DeSoto County from neighboring Tennessee are under the mistaken impression that Mississippi has early voting, which it does not.

"I'm getting a lot of phone calls from people moving down here from Tennessee asking about early voting which we don't have here," Beale said. "I think we need it."

Thompson was in agreement that Mississippi needs to have early voting and is hopeful that lawmakers in the next session of the Mississippi Legislature will approve and enact such a measure.

"We have got to have early voting in Mississippi," Thompson said. "We shouldn't have absentee voting which means ballots have to be handled multiple times."

Polls open in all 41 voting precincts across DeSoto County at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

Robert Lee Long is Community Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at rlong@desototimestribune.com or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.

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