November 25, 2020

Mississippi governor says he’d veto mail-in or early voting

Two days after Mississippi voters stood in long lines at polling places, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said Thursday that he would veto any efforts to broaden state laws to allow widespread mail-in voting or no-excuse early voting because he thinks the changes would cause “too much chaos.”

“I will do everything in my power to ensure every ballot legally cast in the 2020 election in Mississippi gets counted—no matter how long it takes,” Reeves wrote on Facebook and Twitter.

“But based on what I see in other states today, I will also do everything in my power to make sure universal mail-in voting and no-excuse early voting are not allowed in MS—not while I’m governor! Too much chaos,” he wrote. “Only way it’d happen is if many GOP legislators override a veto!”

Reeves supports President Donald Trump, and Trump won Mississippi by a wide margin. Reeves made his comments as the Trump campaign was questioning the counting of mail-in ballots and other votes in states with narrow margins between him and the Democratic presidential nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden.

Mississippi has some of the most restrictive laws in the U.S. about voting before Election Day.

Absentee voting is available to Mississippi residents 65 or older, or to any voters who are permanently disabled or will be out of their home county on Election Day. People who have to work on Election Day when polls may also vote absentee.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic and a presidential race that generated high interest, Mississippi residents requested more than twice as many absentee ballots this year compared with 2016.

Legislators tweaked the law this year with provisions that expire at the end of 2020. Those allow absentee voting by someone with a temporary or permanent disability that may include “a physician-imposed quarantine due to COVID-19” or by a person who is “caring for a dependent that is under a physician-imposed quarantine due to COVID-19.”

Voting-rights activists sued the state to try to expand early voting for people with health conditions that might make them more vulnerable to the new coronavirus. The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled against them Sept. 18.

Bills to allow early voting passed the Mississippi House with bipartisan support in 2016 and 2017 but were killed by a state Senate committee led by Republicans, who have controlled both legislative chambers for nearly a decade.

Some Democratic lawmakers sought to expand absentee voting this year because of the virus, but those efforts went nowhere.