Hosemann seeks elections law debate

THOMAS WELLS | BUY AT PHOTOS.DJOURNAL.COM Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann met with the Daily Journal editorial board in Tupelo on Friday.

THOMAS WELLS | BUY AT PHOTOS.DJOURNAL.COM
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann met with the Daily Journal editorial board in Tupelo on Friday.

By Bobby Harrison

Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON – Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann will ask the 2015 Legislature to look at a broad range of election issues, ranging from open primaries to early voting and online voter registration.

“We anticipate a healthy discussion,” said the second-term Republican.

Hosemann, speaking with the Daily Journal editorial board Friday, said he is in the process of establishing a special committee to look at those issues and present “a white paper” to the 2015 Legislature.

“If it doesn’t pass, I want it to be an issue during the (2015) election,” Hoseman said of the white paper recommendations.

The issue of the Mississippi election system has come up during the recent contentious Republican primary for the U.S. Senate where challenger Chris McDaniel has complained that people who normally vote Democratic participated in the primary, helping incumbent Thad Cochran win the Republican nomination.

But current state law does not require people to register by party. People can vote in the primary of their choice.

Hosemann said that “my gut feeling” is that most average voters want an even more open process where there are no primaries, but people can vote for the candidate of their choice regardless of party. A person might vote for a Republican candidate for governor and a Democratic candidate for sheriff.

Hosemann said he also believes the political parties would be opposed to such an open process.

Hosemann said he had thoughts on the issue, but wanted to wait to see what the recommendations of his special committee were.

He said he already has in mind a chairman who is not in politics. He said the committee would include those involved in the election process, such as circuit clerks and election commissioners, as well as “a very strong contingent of regular Mississippians.”

He said he hopes to have the committee in place by the end of the month with the hope it will begin work soon after that.

Since Mississippi has just enacted a voter identification requirement, Hosemann said he believes it would be appropriate to allow early voting. With the voter ID requirement, he believes there would be less possibility of fraud during early voting. He said the early voting, though, should be confined to the circuit clerk’s office. And he said it might be appropriate to allow people with a driver’s license to register to vote online.

Hosemann said he also will propose to the Legislature bills to allow people starting new businesses to receive limited investments – capped at perhaps $2,000 each – from multiple people, referred to as crowd funding. He’ll also propose legislation to provide tax breaks to international companies who redirect investment in people, equipment and plants from offshore back to Mississippi.

Hosemann confirmed he has not decided whether he will run for re-election next year. He also did not rule out the possibility of running for another office in 2015. He has made no secret of the fact that he would have pursued the U.S. Senate seat had Cochran not sought a seventh term and said he’s still open to the possibility of serving in a federal elected office at some point.

“We have to assess..,” he said of his future election plans. “We are not far from reaching a final decision on that. But we will wait and get our stuff together.”

bobby.harrison@journalinc.com