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Protecting Election 2020 from Covid-19: A Toolkit for Mississippi Activists

If the Covid-19 pandemic continues into November, we will need to change our election practices to make sure voters don’t have to choose between their health and their right to vote. We have the solutions to make our elections both safe and accessible to all. And with this toolkit, you will know what reforms your state needs and where to focus your efforts.

Last Updated: October 22, 2020
Published: August 21, 2020

This is part of the Bren­nan Center’s Toolkits for Activ­ists Across the Nation.

Jump to a section: 
Polit­ical Context  |  What’s in Place and What’s Needed  |  Key Dates

Admin­is­ter­ing an elec­tion under pandemic condi­tions requires under­tak­ing steps to keep voting access­ible, safe, and secure. The guide below lays out the prob­lems Covid-19 poses, what prepared­ness meas­ures Missis­sippi has, and what changes are still needed. But first, we offer some polit­ical context for your advocacy.

Advocacy Focus: Local Reform

Local offi­cials have a lot of respons­ib­il­ity over elec­tions. They are a great place to focus advocacy efforts. Though state offi­cials can make any of the changes in this toolkit, we high­light some examples of changes that local elec­tions offi­cials can also make with this symbol:🔸

Polit­ical Context

Below is a list of the relev­ant offi­cials and inform­a­tion about the legis­lat­ive session.

Governor: Tate Reeves (R)  

Secret­ary of State: Michael Watson (R)

Legis­lature: House (R) Senate (R)

Legis­lat­ive Session: The legis­lature is sched­uled to adjourn on Octo­ber 10, 2020. Only the governor can call a special legis­lat­ive session.

Local Elec­tions Offi­cials: In Missis­sippi, a number of county offi­cials share respons­ib­il­it­ies for admin­is­ter­ing elec­tions. You can look up indi­vidual county offi­cials here.

What Missis­sippi Has and What’s Needed

Three prior­it­ies. There are three key areas where we need to shore up our elec­tions systems for success during a pandemic: regis­tra­tion, mail voting, and in-person voting.


Covid-19 may disrupt the tradi­tional ways Amer­ic­ans register to vote, like get out the vote drives or regis­ter­ing at govern­ment agen­cies. In the crucial weeks before the regis­tra­tion dead­line, postal service disrup­tions may lead many regis­tra­tion forms to arrive at elec­tion offices after the dead­line.

Changes Still Needed:

  • Prepare to extend mail voter regis­tra­tion dead­lines based on condi­tions in the state
  • Online voter regis­tra­tion
  • Voter regis­tra­tion on Elec­tion Day

Voting by Mail

Because of Covid-19, long lines and crowds at the polls pose health risks not seen in previ­ous elec­tions. Allow­ing every citizen to vote by mail reduces the number of people at the polls on Elec­tion Day and decreases the expos­ure risk to Covid-19.

Prepar­at­ory Meas­ures Missis­sippi Already Has Taken:

  • No ID require­ment to vote by mail
  • Accepts late-arriv­ing mail-in ballots post­marked by Elec­tion Day
  • Provides post-elec­tion notice and cure oppor­tun­ity for defects on absentee-ballot envel­ope, includ­ing signa­ture mismatch

Changes Still Needed:

  • Allow voters to vote by mail without an excuse
  • Online tool for request­ing a mail-in ballot
  • Elim­in­ate notary or witness require­ment for return of mail ballot
  • Provide pre-paid post­age for voting by mail
  • Provide post-elec­tion notice and cure oppor­tun­ity for defects on absentee-ballot envel­ope, includ­ing miss­ing signa­tures
  • Allow the mail­ing of absentee-ballot applic­a­tions to all voters who have not yet applied

In-Person Voting

Even with expan­ded mail voting oppor­tun­ity, states cannot close polling places. To do so may disen­fran­chise voters without Inter­net and mail access, or those who do not wish to cast a ballot by mail. In-person voting must be done in accord­ance with health guidelines to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Changes Still Needed:

  • Estab­lish in-person early voting
  • Ensure suffi­cient polling places are open and resourced on Elec­tion Day🔸
  • Take proper public health precau­tions to ensure safe polling places🔸
  • Hold train­ing sessions for polling-place work­ers well in advance of Elec­tion Day, so that elec­tion offi­cials can better anti­cip­ate prob­lems with staff­ing and logist­ics🔸
  • Increase access to curb­side voting at polling loca­tions

Advocacy Focus: Protect­ing Polling Places

No matter how prepared Missis­sippi is as a matter of policy, elec­tions offi­cials and advoc­ates must stay vigil­ant about ensur­ing safe, healthy in-person voting is an option for every­one all the way through Elec­tion Day. Here are some import­ant things to know about who makes decisions about polling places in Missis­sippi and what rules govern the process:

  • Voters can cast emer­gency paper ballots if the voting machine stops work­ing.🔸
  • There is no require­ment for polling places to be located within their corres­pond­ing precincts. Place­ment of polling places outside of their corres­pond­ing precincts are allowed if such place­ment better accom­mod­ates the elect­or­ate and better facil­it­ates the hold­ing of the elec­tion.🔸
  • There is no minimum number of ballots required to be prin­ted for each polling place; however, a suffi­cient number of ballots is required based on the number of registered voters in each precinct.🔸

Key Dates for Missis­sippi Elec­tions

  • Septem­ber 21, 2020: First day of in-person absentee voting at the circuit clerk’s office for the General Elec­tion
  • Octo­ber 5, 2020: Dead­line to register to vote in the General Elec­tion (Applic­a­tion must be post­marked by this date, or else hand delivered to the circuit clerk’s office before the dead­line)
  • Novem­ber 3, 2020: General Elec­tion Day