UPDATE: A judge has ordered Hinds County to keep the polls in Mississippi’s largest county open until 8 p.m. following reports of ballot shortages and long waits across Jackson and nearby areas. Anyone who is in line by 8 p.m. will be able to vote.
At least nine Hinds County polling places ran out of ballots over the course of Election Day as voters headed to the polls to elect a governor and to vote for other statewide, legislative, regional and local offices. Hinds County includes Jackson, the nearly 83%-Black capital city.
WLBT reported Tuesday afternoon that Hinds County District 5 Election Commissioner Shirley Varando cited “unexpectedly large turnout as the problem.”
“We’re running ballots as we speak because we’re trying to make sure every voter gets a chance to come out and cast their ballot for the people of their choice,” WLBT quoted the commissioner saying.
Voters told the Mississippi Free Press earlier today that one polling place ran out of ballots as early as 8:30 a.m.; voting began at 7 a.m. and lasts until 7 p.m.
WLBT and WAPT have reported other ballot shortages at other Hinds County polling places, including the Pinehaven precinct; the Raymond Methodist Church polling place; the Wildwood Baptist Church polling place; and the Chastain Middle School polling place.
While local election officials have printed up new ballots for the polling places that ran out, reports indicate some voters waited as long as two hours before they were able to resume voting.
In a post on social media this afternoon, Hinds County Democratic Executive Committee member Jason McCarty said it was “unacceptable” and called on Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson’s office and local officials to ensure enough ballots are available for voters.
“We were not prepared for this amazing turnout,” he said.
Mississippi House Rep. Kent McCarty, a Lamar County Republican, criticized Hinds County officials for the snafu.
“What an incredible failure on the part of Hinds County to take care of its voters. We provide a whole twelve hours to vote on Election Day, being without ballots for two minutes, much less two hours, is absolutely inexcusable,” he tweeted.
Watson’s office released a statement this afternoon.
“Our office has received questions regarding the printing of ballots. Mississippi law provides that counties should print 60% of the active voter count and county officials decide how to distribute ballots among precincts,” the secretary of state said.
Polls are set to close at 7 p.m., but voters who get in line by that time can still vote as long as they stay in line.
WLBT reported that some Democrats and Republicans have suggested they may ask a judge to intervene and keep the polls open later to give people more opportunities to vote.