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Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann in Hernando Thursday explains measures being taken to improve voter turnout for the Nov. 6 general election in the state. Hosemann also spoke on what is being done about cyber security in elections and ensuring correct voting results.

The person in charge of overseeing the electoral process in the state of Mississippi is getting proactive about promoting the right and obligation for citizens to vote on Election Day, Nov. 6.
 
Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann held a meeting about voting and cyber security in the election process Thursday at the DeSoto County Courthouse in Hernando. The informational meeting that included many of the county’s elected officials and election commissioners, was one of several he is holding across the state.

Hosemann said he took to “campaigning,” so to speak, statewide as he looks to vastly improve the meager turnout of the June 5 primary.

DeSoto County, a county that typically attracts a good response at the polls, had a surprising low turnout of under eight percent for that election.  

“It was not a good day,” Hosemann said. “In Mississippi, I think we had 259,000 people vote out of 1.8 million. Seven-point-seven percent voter turnout is typically not the case in DeSoto County. They’re very active here, very participatory, so it was disappointing to have that.”

Thursday’s meeting was the first step in what Hosemann said will be a very active effort to remind citizens the importance of voting.  

“About next week, you will start hearing radio ads and seeing digital ads reminding people that they have to register to vote by Oct. 6,” Hosemann said. “Two weeks before the election, you’ll see digital ads and you’ll see us out again talking to the press. But you’ll also hear radio ads all across the state reminding people to go cast a ballot.”

Hosemann will be racking up the miles all across the state in the next few weeks, holding meetings and speaking to people about the election process. He will be back in DeSoto County next week, but this time speaking to school students as part of the “Promote the Vote” program for youngsters.  

“Promote the Vote” is a joint effort between Hosemann’s office and Mississippi Public Broadcasting that provides materials to schools and offers them participation in a statewide mock election for the two U.S. Senate seats and the U.S. House seat in their particular area. The program is free of charge to public, private schools and homeschool associations in Mississippi.

The Secretary of State also addressed concerns about cyber security in the electoral process that has produced fears about foreign interference in American elections.  Hosemann said attempts to infiltrate elections from abroad continue on a daily basis.

However, Hosemann pointed out there won’t be any vote stealing from overseas on Election Day in Mississippi.

“Our machines are not connected to the internet and we have a bunch of people in the polling places,” said Hosemann. “We have bailiffs and we have reports signed by the election commissioners, so they’re not going to get your vote.”

He did warn that you will soon start seeing social media posts with false information about candidates that may make voters decide to stay away.

“They can influence you not to cast a ballot and that’s what we saw here (in June),” said Hosemann. “Here (in DeSoto County), you had 7.7 percent turnout. Current active voters were 102,882 but you had votes of 2,212 for Democrats and 5,627 for Republicans, giving a total of 7.7 percent. In the last Presidential election, DeSoto County voted 66 percent turnout. We want to get back closer to the 66 percent.”

Hosemann said he was proud of this week’s sanctions that were announced by President Donald Trump, implemented against countries who are found attempting to tamper voting.

Another announcement Thursday was that all counties in Mississippi in November will have a post-election audit, where selected precinct ballots are pulled and recounted to be sure the reported totals are accurate. DeSoto County was audited in June and found to correct.

The November election is especially important this time with both U.S. Senate seats on the ballot. Sen. Roger Wicker is up for re-election and the seat formerly held by now-retired Sen. Thad Cochran and occupied by Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith is also available.

“Voting is a right and an obligation,” Hosemann said. “It’s already settled if you don’t go out and vote. I would emphasize to people that every vote counts. People need to go vote.”
 
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.