Hosemann pushes election measures, legislative agenda

Published 6:00 pm Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mississippi Secretary of State DelbertHosemann is working to ensure awareness of constitutionalamendments voters will see in the fall and remains concerned aboutthe rising number of absentee ballots cast in Mississippielections.

    In a meeting with The DAILY LEADER editorial board Wednesday,Hosemann highlighted the fact that three amendments to the stateconstitution will appear on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.Hosemann characterized the amendments as very significant inpotential reach.

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    “They concern the right to life, the right to vote and the right toproperty,” Hosemann said.

    Initiative 26, if passed, would define personhood as beginning atthe moment of fertilization.

    Voters would be required to submit government-issued photoidentification when casting votes if Initiative 27 passes. Billsrequiring voter identification have previously failed to pass thestate Legislature.

    Initiative 31 seeks to limit the state’s eminent domain powers. Theamendment would bar the state from seizing private property throughits power of eminent domain and then transferring it to a privateowner for up to 10 years.

    All amendments were generated by voter initiative rather thanlegislative action. Hosemann said this is the first time threepotential constitutional amendments have appeared on the sameballot.

    Hosemann wants to ensure voters have access to all the informationthey need about the amendments. His office held nine hearingsthroughout the state at which residents were able to voice eithertheir opposition or support of the three amendments.

    Hosemann said this process was democracy in action.

    “We went pretty much back to the Greeks, back to the real thing,”he said.

    Transcriptions of the hearings along with pamphlets about each ofthe three initiatives are available on the secretary of state’swebsite at www.sos.ms.gov.

    Hosemann also expressed concern about absentee voting.

    He said in the last presidential election 2 percent of votes castin Mississippi were absentee votes. In Mississippi’s August primaryelection, 6 percent of votes cast were absentee ballots.

    In 20 Mississippi counties, absentee voting rates of 10 percent ormore were reported in the August primary election, according todata released by Hosemann’s office. Franklin County was among those20 counties, with an absentee voting rate of 10 percent.

    Of further concern to Hosemann is that some individuals arewitnessing large numbers of absentee ballots, 75 or more in somecases.

    Hosemann supports a bill that would limit persons to witnessing nomore than 10 absentee ballots. That bill has failed to pass throughthe legislature.

    Hosemann also supports early voting in the state as another meansto curb absentee voting abuse. In early voting, voting machineswould be set up at the circuit clerk’s office, which would functionas a precinct.

    An early voting system would partially replace absentee voting.

    Voters who state they will be out of the county as their reason forabsentee voting would be required to utilize early voting at thecircuit clerk’s office. Those voting absentee for other reasons,including the disabled, would be allowed to continue to do so.

      Hosemann is concerned thatMississippi voters currently use absentee voting as a way of earlyvoting, even if they will not be absent on election day.

    “We have made voters lie. They swear they are going to be out ofthe county and they know they’re not,” Hosemann said. “And we kindof wink and know they’re not.”

    He added, though, that early voting would not eliminate fraud inelections.

    “The thing that cures that is prosecution,” Hosemann said, speakingof voter fraud.

    Hosemann has several items he is working to see successfully passthrough the 2012 state legislative session.

    Among them is a system whereby small businesses can participate inuniversity and community college research projects and receive atax credit for it.

    “I want to tie small businesses to the universities,” Hosemannsaid.

    Another item on Hosemann’s 2012 legislative agenda is a tax creditfor companies relocating their corporate headquarters toMississippi.

    Hosemann said Brookhaven could potentially be an attractive sitefor corporate relocations. He said quality of life is often animportant factor for such relocations.

    “You have a downtown, education, health care,” he said. “Brookhavencould be viable for that (corporate relocation).”