Almost 90% of the estimated voting age population in Mississippi is registered to vote.
While that sounds like an admirable position, according to Mississippi’s Secretary of State’s office, 90% voter registration is actually a trigger that voter rolls need to be purged.
When newly elected Michael Watson took over as Secretary of State this year, his office embarked on an 82-county tour to discuss with local election commissions and circuit clerks about how to best maintain an accurate voter roll.
Humphreys County leads the state with registered voters at 107.26% of the voting age population estimate. The lowest percentage is Greene County at 70.39%.
There are 47 counties in Mississippi with voter registration percentage higher than 90. (An alphabetical list of all the counties in the state is here.)
Spokesperson for the office, Kendra James, said Watson spent the tour encouraging these officials to clean up the voter rolls.
“We sent a mailer about COVID-19 election procedures to every registered voter in Mississippi and made the return address the circuit clerk’s office in each county,” Franks said.
She said the returned mail was to be used by the offices to contact the person and either correct information in their voter record or determine if they are no longer eligible to vote.
While death is an obvious disqualification from voting, Mississippians can also lose their right to vote for being convicted of a felony and moving out of the district among other reasons.
“County election commissioners are trained each year on voter roll maintenance,” James said. “They are to maintain the voter roll by purging voters who have died, been convicted of a disenfranchising crime, been declared mentally incompetent, or requested removal from the voter roll.”
Updating voter records happens in two different avenues.
“Our office has imports from the Department of Health and Vital Statistics, which show voters who have been issued a death certificate, and imports from the Administrative Office of Courts for voters who have been convicted of a disenfranchising crime,” Franks said. “While the death certificates are accurate, the election commissioners are trained to obtain a copy of a sentencing/conviction order before purging a voter for a disenfranchising crime.”
While federal law provides for maintenance of the voting rolls, it does not spell out exactly how those rolls should be maintained.
“Election commissioners should follow the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) for purging voters who have possibly moved away from the county,” Franks said. “They should use reliable sources of information to confirm this information and mail those voters who have moved (or possibly moved) a confirmation card, which asks the voter to confirm he/she still lives at the address on file or update the voter’s address if the voter has moved. Voters are responsible for updating their addresses each time the voter moves, which may require reregistering to vote in a new county or new state.”
According to the United States Justice Department’s website: Section 8 of the National Voting Rights Act permits States to remove the name of a person from the voter registration rolls upon the request of the registrant, and, if State law so provides, for mental incapacity or for criminal conviction. The Act also requires States to conduct a general voter registration list maintenance program that makes a reasonable effort to remove ineligible persons from the voter rolls by reason of the person’s death, or a change in the residence of the registrant outside of the jurisdiction, in accordance with procedures set forth in the NVRA. The list maintenance program must be uniform, nondiscriminatory and in compliance with the Voting Rights Act.