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Services available for senior citizens this election season

With Mississippians heading to the polls on Nov. 6, one Oxonian wants to make sure senior citizens know they have options in regard to making their voice heard.

Cynthia White, who worked for the Secretary of the Treasury under Presidents Nixon and Ford, as well as for former Mayor Pat Patterson, said it’s no secret she loves politics. However, White said, she’s concerned her fellow senior citizens might not know of resources available to them leading up to election day.

“I have a lot of friends who have a hard time getting around, and they don’t really know the ins and outs of doing an absentee ballot, voting early,” White said. “One friend has a walker. She’s in her mid-70s, and said, ‘If I go to the conference center, I have to stand in line with all the other people, and it’s really a chore.’ Therefore, it makes it easier to not vote.”

Standing in long lines or being out of the home might not be feasible for everyone, White said, but a call to the Lafayette County Circuit Clerk’s office confirmed what she already knew: absentee ballots and early voting is available for those in need.

According to circuit clerk Baretta Mosley, alternative voting methods for senior citizens, or anyone with mobility issues, include mailed absentee ballots and early voting.

In order to qualify, those interested must call the circuit clerk’s office and state whether they have a permanent or temporary disability. A permanent disability requires a written certificate from a doctor and entitles the individual to a mailed absentee ballot for every election. Temporary disabilities include injuries or health conditions, and secure an absentee ballot for the individual for the next upcoming election. Those filed as temporarily disabled must call the circuit clerk’s office before every election to ensure their ballot is mailed to them properly.

However, Mosley said, the majority of senior citizens opt come to the courthouse to vote early.

“If you can get to the courthouse, we’ll be glad to help you absentee vote here in the office,” Mosley said. “If it’s a disability where you cannot maneuver and get into the building, if you’ll send somebody in, we will be happy to do it curbside for you.”

Mosley said the preparations for absentee ballots begin 60 days before each election. The ballots typically arrive 45 days before election day, so the circuit clerk’s office starts mailing them as soon as they get them.

Those who wish to absentee vote by going directly to the circuit clerk’s office, located in the Lafayette County Courthouse, during regular hours, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Voters also have the option to absentee vote, with assistance, at the courthouse during the two Saturdays before the election.

For senior citizens who are able to vote in person, but may not have a way to travel to the polls, the City of Oxford and Lafayette County operate the 5310 Elderly and Disabled Transportation program for the LOU community. Individuals 55 years of age and older with no valid driver’s license and individuals with a disability that prevents them from driving, are eligible for this service, free of charge.

According to coordinator Arledia Bennett, many people use the service for travel to doctor’s appointments, to the pharmacy, grocery shopping, other nutrition needs such as the food pantry, food stamp office and rehab services. However, many senior citizens have no idea they can use the service on election day, she said.

“We transport citizens for voter ID and to the polls, but cannot transport them for voter registration,” Bennett said. “But I think we’ve transported one person. We’ve been doing this 6 or 8 years, but I guess people don’t think about it. Or if they have a way to get to the polls, they do that instead.”

For general transportation needs, Bennett said the service needs at least 24 hours’ notice. For transportation on election day, however, she requested interested individuals call by Oct. 31, to make sure there was adequate time allotted for both those who are voting and those who are not.

To apply for an absentee ballot, or address any other voting-related concerns, call the Lafayette County Circuit Court’s office at 662-234-4951. To schedule a ride with the Elderly and Transportation program, call 662-232-2476.