Sorry to mention voting, for all those folks who are sick and tired of Campaign 2006, but Mississippi was lucky or smart Tuesday, evidenced by very few reported problems with voting machines.

If you watched the national news, lots of places had machine malfunctions and other problems. One place even saw something pretty dramatic: A pollworker apparently got fed up and assaulted a voter. Thank goodness it wasn’t Mississippi.

In many places, the voter lines were long. People had long waits to cast their ballots. I saw videos of people in Ohio, I think, standing out in the rain under umbrellas or whatever shelter they could find. Some folks in the far West had to risk their lives, crossing flood-swollen streams after incredibly heavy storms.

Obviously, weather and other circumstances can come into play to help or hinder voters in performing their most important duty as American citizens.

It’s with that in mind that I offer a request to my state legislators: Please introduce and support a bill to allow early voting in Mississippi. Gov. Barbour, if they pass it, please sign it.

Fifteen other states have early voting, no matter the reason. In Tennessee, for example, some 800,000 people used it this election and didn’t contribute to the polling place traffic there Tuesday.

My daughter took advantage of Texas’ early voting law and walked down the street to the Harris County Courthouse nearly a month ahead of the national election. No crowds, no problems, no concerns.

Frankly, I don’t see why Mississippi can’t join the crowd. Early voting might actually increase the number of people who vote. We could do it at our convenience, not worried about weather or illness or any other factors that might confound our ballot purposes.

I’m sure a legislator or two will come up with a good “reason” why early voting just isn’t for Mississippi, although at this point it’s hard to grasp.

That reminds me of more than a decade ago when I worked for Secretary of State Dick Molpus. We were working hard, our third year I think, to lobby the Legislature to approve mail-in voter registration. Our aim was to help as many people register to vote as conveniently and securely as possible. It was simple: You can’t vote if you aren’t registered.

During the floor debate, which I’ll never forget, one House member came to the podium to insist mail-in voter registration was a very bad thing. Its result could be disastrous, he insisted. “Well, you know, if everybody can register to vote,” he remarked, “then everybody might actually vote.” Well, yeh, that was the point.

And so, if anybody else likes the idea of an early voting law for Mississippi, get in touch with your representative or senator. He or she can introduce that bill for us. Frankly, with these folks thinking about getting re-elected in 2007, they might be eager to be helpful.

Patsy R. Brumfield is news editor of the Daily Journal. Tell her what you think about early voting at 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com

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