Voters in two majority Black Mississippi counties have cast almost four times as many absentee ballots as they did four years ago, new data from the Mississippi Secretary of State’s office show.
In Washington County (county seat Greenville), voters have cast 7,063 ballots, about 386% as many four years ago; in Sunflower County (county seat Indianola), voters have cast 1,766 ballots, about 370% as many. Both counties’ populations are about 75% non-white.
The two counties lead the state in terms of absentee ballots cast relative to 2016, followed by Hinds County. Sunflower County’s haul is particularly notable, because the county’s active voter rolls have declined by nearly 1,000 since 2016.
Statewide, 219% as many voters have cast absentee ballots compared to four years ago. The record-smashing haul comes despite the fact that Mississippi is the only state that did not significantly expand absentee or early voting options in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
By Nov. 1, Mississippians had returned 231,031 absentee ballots. Voters cast just 105,714 absentee votes four years ago. Statewide, voter rolls increased by around 96,500 since 2016.
“We’re so excited by the turnout that we’ve seen in absentee voting and we believe that’s going to extend to voting tomorrow,” Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson said during a press conference today. “And I look forward to a great day for the future of Mississippi as well as the future of our country.”
This year’s absentee total will climb higher, though. The secretary of state report shows that circuit clerks still have not received about 17,000 additional absentee ballots that voters requested by mail. Mississippi officials will accept ballots if they are postmarked by Nov. 3 and received within five days of the election.
Hinds, the largest county in the state and the home to the capital city Jackson, also saw a three-fold increase in absentee votes since the last presidential election, with 318% as many absentee ballots already returned. Hinds County voters have cast 16,917 ballots so far compared to just 5,314 in 2016.
Like Washington and Sunflower counties, more than 70% of Hinds County’s residents are African American.
More detailed information on absentee voter data is available on the Mississippi Trusted Elections Project page at mfp.ms/voting.
The election is tomorrow, Nov. 3. Mississippi voters who did not vote by absentee ballot must arrive at their polling places with a valid form of photo ID to cast a ballot. Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs has advised voters to wear masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic, though election officials are only requiring them for poll workers. More information on voting is available at sos.ms.gov/vote.
This story is part of the MFP’s Mississippi Trusted Elections Project, focusing on access to the polls and voting access in Mississippi. Visit the site to view several infographics and continually updated maps of voting precincts, absentee vote totals and precinct changes across Mississippi, created by William Pittman who also did data analysis for the above report. The American Press Institute provided funding for this work.