Hosemann proposes updates for state election laws

Published 11:12 am Wednesday, January 20, 2016


Associated Press

JACKSON — Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said Tuesday that he is asking legislators to update Mississippi’s election laws, including allowing people to fill out voter registration forms online just as people can already do in more than half the states.

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He proposes moving Mississippi’s presidential primary to the first Tuesday in March, the same date as many other Southeastern states, starting in 2020. Under current law, the primary is the second Tuesday in March.

List of wants

Hosemann, a Republican, said he also wants to allow people to vote in circuit clerks’ offices 21 days before any election. Current law allows limited reasons for voting early by absentee ballot, and Hosemann said some voters are being forced to lie about their plans to be out of town on election day.

He wants candidates to give itemized listings of campaign expenses paid by credit card.

He also wants to shorten the timeline — from 10 days to 48 hours — for political committees to report their spending, and he wants to ease the process for prosecutors to bring charges against people who send anonymous campaign fliers.

Hosemann said “suspicious mailers” were a problem in the 2015 election cycle. Some were sent anonymously. A group called the National Association for Gun Rights sent nearly identical fliers to campaign against several incumbent lawmakers, including Republican Rep. Ray Rogers of Pearl and Democratic Sen. Hob Bryan of Amory. On one side, the flier had a photo of a woman cowering from a person holding a knife. On the other side, the flier said the incumbent “thinks you should be left vulnerable to armed thugs and rapists.”

Hosemann said the National Association of Gun Rights filed a campaign finance report that said it had spent $260 for all of the fliers, but thousands were mailed.

“We have to allow people to say just about anything we want to, but we need to know who said it,” Hosemann said. “We need to protect our First Amendment rights, but we don’t need to have voting by ambush.”

The proposed election changes will be filed in a bill that’s more than 380 pages long, Hosemann said. House and Senate leaders have not yet named committee members or chairmen, so it’s not clear which lawmakers will get the first chance to debate the package.