Lowndes absentee ballots scrutinized

By The Associated Press

COLUMBUS — Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and Lowndes County circuit clerk Haley Salazar are calling attention to a problem of a handful of people witnessing large amounts of absentee ballots.

Salazar tells The Commercial Dispatch that she’s seen the problem since taking office in 1992.

It is not illegal under Mississippi for an individual to witness multiple absentee ballots.

Hosemann raised the issue in his 2010 Election Day Activity Report released this past week. He noted that 350 of Lowndes County’s 1,263 absentee ballots were witnessed by six individuals during the November elections. One individual witnessed 167 ballots and another 80 ballots.

Salazar has declined to identify the individuals. She said the abnormality existed before the November elections.

Salazar has suggested that lawmakers limit the number of absentee ballots an individual can witness.

“I think the system is being manipulated,” Salazar said. “I believe candidates are paying a person to go around to voters’ homes and get voters to call me (and request an absentee ballot).”

The state Senate has under consideration a bill that would limit the number of voters an individual may assist at the polls. It does not address the absentee ballot situation cited by Hosemann and Salazar.

State law specifies reasons that are allowed for absentee voting in Mississippi. Among them are voters who are 65 years or older, voter who will be out of their home county on election day, have to work on election day, are physically disabled or are Mississippi citizens temporarily living outside the U.S.

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The bill is Senate Bill 2055.