Tommy Chandler casts his vote in the city of Tupelo’s Major Thoroughfare Program in early February. Voters looking to vote via absentee ballot in Tupelo’s upcoming municipal election will have to wait a bit longer. Although absentee voting was originally scheduled to begin on Feb. 22, last week’s icy weather pushed the start date to later this week.

TUPELO • Residents who were hoping to vote by absentee for the upcoming municipal primary races will have to wait another few days.

According to the 2021 elections calendar from the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office, registered voters could start voting via absentee ballot on Feb. 22. But Kim Hanna, Tupelo’s municipal clerk, told the Daily Journal the delivery of the absentee ballots has been delayed because of last week’s winter weather.

“We think we’ll have them Wednesday,” Hanna said of the delayed absentee ballots.

Hanna, who also serves as the city’s chief financial officer, said that once she and other deputy clerks review the delivered ballots for accuracy and spelling, qualified residents may begin voting by absentee.

Hanna said Tupelo isn’t alone in having to delay the start of absentee voting. Much of Northeast Mississippi last week was covered in snow and ice, making travel difficult for most people difficult, if not impossible.

The Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office, which oversees elections, through a spokeswoman did not immediately return a request for comment asking how pervasive the delay in absentee ballot deliveries were in the state.

When absentee ballots are for the primary election, voters must choose to vote in the Republican primary or the Democratic primary.

“When we ask you which ballot you want it’s not meant to be offensive or to pry,” Hanna said. “It’s just meant to get people the correct ballot.”

Mississippi does not require voters to register with a political party, so voters are able to switch which primaries they participate in from one election cycle to the next. However, voters are not allowed to vote in the primary election for one party then vote in the opposite party’s runoff election during the same election cycle.

If voters in Ward 1, for example, vote in the Democratic primary, they will not be allowed to participate in a runoff election for the Republican primary.

Mississippi has some of the most restrictive absentee voting laws in the country and has no early voting system. State law requires voters to cast a regular ballot in-person on election day, unless they qualify for one of around 10 excuses to vote by absentee.

When the ballots are available, registered voters can either request an absentee ballot by mail or cast an absentee ballot by visiting the municipal clerk’s office inside of City Hall.

Some registered voters are eligible to vote by an absentee ballot if they are over 65 years old, permanently or temporarily disabled, a college student or will be out of town on the date of the election.

If voters have any specific questions about whether they are qualified to vote by absentee, they are encouraged to contact the municipal clerk’s office at (662)-841-6513.

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