The NAACP Legal Defense Fund, ACLU of Mississippi, Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Institute, Mississippi Center for Justice, Mississippi State Conference of the NAACP, One Voice, and Southern Poverty Law Center sent a letter to Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson regarding polling place changes and the disproportionate impact these changes had on Black voters. The letter urges Secretary Watson’s office to implement formal rules and guidance to ensure that voters receive accurate and timely information concerning polling site changes.
During the 2020 election, there were widespread reports of inaccurate or outdated information about polling site changes as voters throughout Mississippi received conflicting information from local election officials and the Secretary of State’s online poll locator. Local election officials in Mississippi changed polling sites in at least 55 precincts before the 2020 election, but the Secretary of State reported changes in only 17 precincts. These polling site changes affected 65,000 voters. Moreover, these unpublicized polling site changes disproportionately impact Black voters. In 2020, most of the unpublicized changes occurred in counties with significant Black populations. According to media reports, nineteen counties failed to report one or more polling site changes before the 2020 general election. In eleven of those counties, Black people comprise over 40% of the population.
To avoid similar problems during the 2022 election cycle, the Secretary of State should ensure that the online poll locator reports timely and accurate information to voters by requiring county governments to immediately report polling site changes to your office and into the Statewide Elections Management System (SEMS). Mississippi law requires county Boards of Supervisors to provide notice to the Secretary of State before implementation of any polling site changes, but compliance has been inconsistent at best. Moreover, there are no regulations governing how and when voters receive notice of polling site changes.
LDF and the coalition recommend that the Mississippi Secretary of State’s office:
Read the full letter here.
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