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State election polls open Tuesday morning

Lincoln County’s Circuit Clerk’s office is preparing for the elections to be held Tuesday.

Dustin Bairfield, Lincoln County’s Circuit Clerk, said as of Saturday afternoon 336 absentee votes had been cast. He said 261 absentee ballots were mailed out and 107 have been returned. All mail-outs must be in the Circuit Clerk’s P.O. Box at the downtown location by 5 p.m. Monday.

Regular voting will take place at the 31 precincts from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. For a full list of the voting precincts, see page 10.

Tuesday’s 2014 general election ballot will not only give voters an opportunity to cast their votes for U.S. Senator, U.S. Representative and judges, but there will also be a statewide initiative measure no. 1, House Concurrent Resolution 30.

A summary of the resolution reads, “This proposed constitutional amendment establishes hunting, fishing, and the harvesting of wildlife, including by the use of traditional methods, as a constitutional right subject only to such regulations and restrictions that promote wildlife conservation and management as the Legislature may prescribe by general law.”

Jim Walker, spokesman for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, explained this bill started in the state House of Representatives and was signed by the governor in 2012. It amends the Mississippi constitution to give people the right, not privilege to hunt.

“Hunting and fishing cross all lines – gender, racial, economic, etc.,” said Walker. “There are people who participate in some sort of hunting at one time or another. They may get a gun and a box of shells and go squirrel hunting, or they may go fishing.”

Walker said, “I encourage people to vote for this resolution. We don’t know what the political climate will be in the future, and if this passes, it will be difficult for any group in the future to take away the right to hunt and fish.”

“The legislature was very deliberate in the wording,” said Walker. “Regulations will stay the same. People will still have to have a license.”

Seventeen other states have amended their constitutions with similar resolutions. Vermont was the first to do so in the 1700s. Walker explained that hunting and fishing are a huge economic boost in the state because people who are involved in those sports purchase guns, fuel, trucks and boats, and there are the indirect things like clothing and food at local cafes which factor into the economy.

It also creates jobs.

Representative Scott Bounds, chairman of the House Wildlife Fisheries and Parks Committee, said “We felt Mississippi needed this resolution because other states had been threatened by anti-gun and anti-hunting groups who wanted to take away the right to hunt and fish.”

Bounds said, “This initiative guarantees hunting and fishing under general laws. For example, it would still be illegal to spotlight deer. And there would still be regulations.”

Bounds is also the co-chairman of the Mississippi Sportsmen’s Caucus which is the largest bi-partisan caucus advocating public policy on sound conservation practices and principles.

“This election will give people an opportunity to express their opinions on the rights for the future,” said Bounds. “I encourage everyone to turn out and vote to express whether to make it a right or not to hunt and fish.”