By Michael Watson, Secretary of State
While Mississippians across the state are gearing up for the next school year, our office is preparing for the fast-approaching November general election. It’s an important time for our state with all four congressional seats on the ballot as well as several judicial positions; moreover, this year’s midterm elections are significant across the country.
When I was elected, I swore an oath and was entrusted with ensuring our elections are safe and secure. During the 2022 Legislative Session, we were able to work with our state legislature to pass key legislation, taking additional steps in safeguarding Mississippi elections. I want to make you aware of a few of the changes you may notice as you head to the polls in November.
We were able to secure funding for new voting machines statewide which you will soon see in your counties if you have not already. These new machines must include a voter verifiable paper ballot, not just an electronic vote, and cannot have the capability of connecting to the internet.
Every county will also be receiving a 25 percent increase from the Election Support Fund (ESF). These funds may be spent by counties on administering elections, strengthening their cyber security, training local officials, repairing equipment, etc.– all of which are crucial components to protecting the integrity of our state’s elections.
Finally, when I ran for this office, I committed to making sure only United States citizens voted in our elections. We worked hard to get legislation passed the previous two sessions but fell short both years. Thankfully, we were successful this year. My team and I are proud to have delivered on that commitment by helping with the passage of legislation to require proof of citizenship. This legislation ensures that only United States citizens who are residents of Mississippi are eligible to register to vote in our state by utilizing a system of checks and balances at both the state and federal level.
Sadly, Mississippi saw historically low voter turnout during the June 2022 primary election with only 11 percent of registered voters voting. We can and must do better than this, Mississippi! Remember: your vote is your voice, so get out and vote on Tuesday, November 8, and exercise one of your greatest civil liberties. If you will be out of the county on election day, make plans to cast your absentee ballot in advance.
I am proud to say we have worked diligently to maintain and strengthen your confidence and trust in the Mississippi elections process. Join us in honoring the brave men and women who have sacrificed so much to secure our freedom and ability to vote. Let’s get ready to vote, Mississippi!
Michael Watson is Mississippi’s Secretary of State.