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Mississippi sees low number of requests for absentee ballots

May 29, 2018

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi’s top elections official said Tuesday that a “disappointing” number of absentee ballots have been requested for the June 5 party primaries for U.S. House and Senate.

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said in a state with 1.8 million registered voters, only about 6,000 people have requested absentee ballots.

Hosemann said he hopes the absentee numbers don’t reflect how many people will vote in person, but added: “I’m not expecting a large turnout, unfortunately.”

Republicans and Democrats each have a party primary for a U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican Roger Wicker. Six candidates are running in the Democratic primary, and Wicker faces one challenger for the Republican nomination.

Each party has a primary for central Mississippi’s 3rd District House seat, where Republican incumbent Gregg Harper is not seeking re-election after a decade in office. The Republican primary has six candidates, and the Democratic primary has two.

Republicans also have a primary in south Mississippi’s 4th District, with Republican incumbent Steven Palazzo facing one challenger.

If runoffs are needed, they will be June 26.

Mississippi allows absentee voting if people will be out of their home county on election day, including if they are on military duty or away at school. Anyone 65 or older may vote absentee, as may any person with a temporary or permanent physical disability.

Mississippi voters requested 20,924 absentee ballots before the federal primaries in 2016, when presidential races were on the ballot, according to the secretary of state’s office.

The office did not have information about how many absentee ballots were requested a week before the federal midterm primaries in 2014, when the most fiercely contested race was for the Republican nomination for Mississippi’s other U.S. Senate seat. Incumbent Thad Cochran trailed state Sen. Chris McDaniel in a three-way primary, but defeated McDaniel in a runoff three weeks later. Cochran won the 2014 general election and resigned from the Senate this spring, citing health concerns.

Gov. Phil Bryant appointed fellow Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith to temporarily succeed Cochran, and a special election will be held in November to fill the final two years of the term. There are no party primaries for that race. Hyde-Smith, McDaniel, Democratic former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy and Democratic former Gautier City Council member Tobey Bartee are all on the same ballot. If nobody wins a majority Nov. 6, the top two advance to a Nov. 27 runoff.

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Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .

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