Absentee voting for the 2020 presidential election is underway in Union County, said Circuit Clerk Phyllis Stanford.

Absentee voting will be available until Oct. 31. People can vote absentee at the circuit clerk’s office at the courthouse Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or have a ballot mailed to them.

The circuit clerk’s office will also be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31 for the last day of absentee voting.

In addition, the circuit clerk’s office will also be open Saturday, Oct. 3 from 8 a.m. to noon and Saturday, Oct. 24 from 8 a.m. to noon.

The deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 3 election is Oct. 5.

In the state of Mississippi, voters must claim a reason to vote absentee, Stanford said.

For instance, voters who are temporarily or permanently disabled can absentee vote. Voters who are away at school or away on their job on election day can also vote absentee. Voters who are over the age of 65 can vote absentee as well.

People can vote absentee at the circuit clerk’s office at the courthouse or have a ballot mailed to them.

Some of the ballots that are mailed will have to be notarized. For instance, people who are voting absentee by mail because they are away at school or on the job must have their ballots notarized. Likewise, voters who are over 65 and vote by mail must also have their ballots notarized.

The temporarily or permanently disabled voters who vote by mail only have to have their ballots witnessed by someone who is over the age of 18.

People who have a physician-imposed quarantine due to COVID-19 can also vote absentee. And voters caring for someone who has a physician-imposed quarantine due to COVID-19 can also vote absentee.

Four years ago, Union County had over 800 absentee ballots submitted.

“I feel sure we will do over that number this time,” Stanford said.

The polling locations will have a number of safety precautions in place to help keep voters and poll workers safe during the election, Stanford said. Poll managers will be wearing masks, she said.

Stanford says her office will be prepared for election day and that there is a plan in place to handle the expected heavy voter turnout during the coronavirus pandemic.

Stanford said the state is giving her office supplies to help keep voters and poll manages safe during the election. For instance, she said her office will receive N-95 masks, face shields and gloves for poll managers.

Masks will also be available for voters who may show up to a voting precinct without one.

The “I Voted” stickers will not be distributed to voters this time. The election commissioners felt that this would be one less thing for people to touch. Instead of the “I Voted” stickers voters will receive an ink pen that they can keep after they sign the poll book. This way, voters will not be using the same pens over and over to sign the poll book.

Q-Tips will also be used by voters to vote on the touch screen voting machines so they don’t have to touch the screen with their fingers.

Likewise, there will be hand sanitizer available as well as wipes and spray to clean throughout the day. Sneeze guards will also be at every polling location.

“I think we’re going to be in good shape,” Stanford said.

Stanford feels as though she has enough poll workers. She said there will be five poll workers at every precinct other than the largest precinct, which will have seven.

“I know some of our older, experienced workers did choose not to work this time due to Covid,” Stanford said. “I think the ones that were concerned about their health chose not to work.”

But she said it looks as though the election commissioners have been successful in getting enough poll workers to replace those who chose not to work this time.

Stanford said she does not have any major concerns about smaller precincts and cramped spaces with the expected high voter turnout.

She said there will be painter’s tape placed around the precincts to mark off the 6 feet of social distancing. A bailiff will be at each precinct to enforce the 6 feet distance requirements.

Stanford also believes state and the county officials are doing all they can to keep voters and poll workers safe during the election. She feels as though the state has prepared her office with adequate resources and plans for the election.

“I think they’ve done a good job,” she added.

In addition to the presidential election, which includes incumbent Republican Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden, there will also be several other races and issues on the ballot.

There will be a U.S. Senate race with Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., Democrat Mike Espy and Libertarian Jimmy L. Edwards.

In another race, Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Trent Kelly, R-Miss., will face Democrat Antonia Eliason.

Voters will also choose between Josiah Dennis Coleman and Percy L. Lynchard for District 3 Supreme Court justice. 

There is also a medical marijuana initiative on the ballot as well as the proposed new state flag. 

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