Absentee voting is going on for the primary election Aug. 6, but many people are confused about what it really is.
Technically it is more of a nominating process than a regular election.
For decades, only Democratic candidates ran in elections locally so the primary effectively served as an election, but that’s not what it really is.
With more Republican and third-party candidates running, the function of the primary becomes more important.
A primary election is an election used to narrow the field of candidates for a given elective office from each political party separately.
In our case its function is more like a convention to nominate than an election. Primary winners are the party nominees who then can go on the general election ballot in November.
There can also be nonpartisan primaries used to narrow the field of candidates for nonpartisan offices such as judicial posts in advance of a general election.
In some parts of the country, one can only vote in a party primary if he or she is a registered member of that political party. Mississippi has open primaries where the voter does not declare party affiliation and can vote in the Democratic or Republican primary.
Section 23-15-575 of the Mississippi Code stipulates that a voter is only eligible to participate in a party’s primary if he or she “intends to support the nominations made the primary in which he participates.”
That means no crossover voting, participating in one party’s primary and then voting in the other party’s runoff, if there is one.
Because there is generally no ready proof of a voter’s intentions, FairVote and the National Conference of State Legislatures classify Mississippi’s primary elections as open.
In Mississippi, a primary candidate must win a majority of the votes cast for the office he or she is seeking in order to secure the nomination. If no candidate for an office wins a majority of votes cast in the primary, a runoff election between the top two vote-getters is held.
One cannot vote in the Democratic primary, for instance, and then vote in the Republican runoff. But if someone does not vote in the primary he or she can choose either party runoff.
This system can make it tough on voters, if they favor Democratic candidates in one race but Republican candidates in another.
On Aug. 6, voters will only have a few real choices on either ballot.
On the Democratic ballot the only contested local races are for sheriff, medical examiner, First District supervisor and Fourth District supervisor.
On the Republican ballot the only contested local races are for sheriff, Third District supervisor, District 14 state representative and District 3 senator.
The deadline to register to vote or update voter information is Monday, July 8.
County offices will be closed Thursday and Friday, July 4 and 5, but Union County Circuit Clerk Phyllis Stanford will have her office open this Saturday from 8 a.m. until noon for absentee voters as well as registration.
Having incorrect information on record could prevent delays when one goes to vote Aug. 6.
Accompanying is a list comparing the two ballots and who will be on them.