Judges Order Mississippi Polls Stay Open Longer Over Ballot Shortages
A voter fills out their ballot at the U.S. Air Force MEPS Liaison building in Jackson, Miss., on Nov. 7, 2023. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)
Two judges extended voting times at Mississippi polling places on Tuesday night after ballot shortages were reported.
In the first case, Hinds County Chancery Judge Dewayne Thomas ordered the extension, citing a number of disruptions caused by the ballot shortages.
On Tuesday, the Mississippi Democratic Party filed an emergency petition with the court to keep polls open an hour longer. Separately, Mississippi Votes, a nonpartisan group, filed its own petition in another court.
The shortages impacted several Jackson suburbs in Hinds County.
“A number of precincts in Hinds County ran out of ballots during election day and are continuing to run out of ballots and others may run out going forward. It takes time to deliver more ballots to the precincts,” wrote Judge Thomas in his order.
“The Defendants did not take a position in response to the motion but acknowledged that several precincts had run out of ballots.”
The judge ordered the Hinds County Election Commission and the Hinds County Circuit Clerk to extend the closing hours for all precincts accordingly until 9 p.m. ET.
Polls in Mississippi were originally set to be open for 12 hours, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The order meant that polling place hours were extended in Jackson, Tougaloo, Bolton, Clinton, Edwards, Pocahontas, Learned, Raymond, Terry, Utica, and other Hinds County cities.
The state’s Republican Party (MSGOP) challenged this order, filing an emergency petition with the Mississippi Supreme Court to vacate Judge Thomas’s order, or alternatively, to modify the injunction.
“The interests of justice requires intervention of the MSGOP and emergency appeal,” the filing states.
The state GOP asked the state’s highest court—if it would not vacate the lower court’s order—to segregate the ballots of “all voters who are not in line” at 7 p.m. “and not counted with ballots of voters in line” before 7 p.m.
“We further request that all segregated [ballots] not be counted at the precinct and be returned to the Circuit Clerk’s office in a sealed ballot box. Immediate relief is required to avoid irreparable injury,” the filing states.
Mississippi law requires election officials to have enough ballots for 60 percent of a precinct’s voters. However, Hinds Country election commissioners said voter turnout exceeded that, forcing them to print more ballots and deliver them to locations that ran out.
Hinds County District 5 Election Commissioner Shirley Varando attributed the ballot shortage to an “unexpectedly large turnout.”
“We’re running ballots as we speak because we’re trying to make sure every voter gets a chance to come out and cast their ballot for the people of their choice,” Ms. Varando said, WLBT reported.
4 More Polling Places Ordered to Remain Open Until 9 PM
In a separate order, Hinds County Special Circuit Judge Jess Dickenson later ordered certain county polling precincts to remain open until 9 p.m. local time because of more ballot shortages.
Mississippi Votes, a nonpartisan group, filed a lawsuit against Hinds County Election Commissioners and Zack Wallace, circuit clerk.
The lawsuit claimed that unreasonably long lines and wait times at four polling sites were caused by a “delay in having sufficient ballots for voters.”
The four precincts named in the lawsuit were Byram City Hall, a United Methodist church in Raymond, and the Wildwood Baptist Church and Northside Baptist Church, both in Clinton.
Election officials “ran out of ballots at several precincts.”
The lawsuit claimed the delay lasted “over two hours in certain precincts.” It argued that long lines and wait times “can prevent voters who intend to vote from successfully casting a ballot,” citing a 2012 study.
Judge Dickenson in part granted and in part denied the request.
Mississippi Votes asked “the court to require the polls to remain open until 9:00 p.m. on November 7, 2023” in the four precincts, the judge noted in her ruling.
She ordered that the polls at those locations “shall remain open ‘until the last qualified voter, who was standing in line at the polling place at 7:00 p.m., has cast his or her ballot, or 7:00 p.m., whichever is later.’”
From The Epoch Times
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