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Senate kills early voting, online registration

JACKSON (AP) — Mississippians won’t be able to initially register to vote online or vote early at courthouses after Senate committees killed bills that would have allowed those changes.

House Elections Committee Chairman Bill Denny, R-Jackson, said he’s upset that Senate Elections Committee Chairwoman Sally Doty, R- Brookhaven, rejected the bills without seriously considering them.

“We knew that they were dead even before we sent it over there,” Denny said.

Doty said House Bill 373, allowing online, first-time voter registration for people with a valid Mississippi driver’s license, wasn’t a high priority. She said lawmakers need more time to acclimate to the idea.

She said costs and other details associated with House Bill 228 haven’t been worked out. The measure which would have allowed no-excuses in-person early voting at a circuit clerk’s office starting 14 days before an election. Such access is allowed in several other states. Current state law only lets people vote absentee if they will be out of town on Election Day or have other allowed reasons.

“We already have five categories of folks who can vote absentee in Mississippi,” she said. “I think we have ample opportunity for people to vote,” Doty said.

He says he’s not sure what the future is for either proposal after the House passed both for two years straight with barely any dissent.

“What am I going to do with them now?” he asked, saying members already objected to passing the bills this year because they were doomed in the Senate.

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said he was worried about online registration, citing repeated attempts to hack into the state elections computer.

“I have concerns about the security of that,” Hosemann said.

Denny, though, said he though online registration would be more secure than paper registration, because it would require a person’s name to match their driver’s license information. Right now, he said, it’s possible for a person to register multiple times and election workers have difficulty distinguishing between multiple registrations, especially if a person has a common name.

“It would be so much better than what we have now,” Denny said.

Lawmakers do remain on track to tighten rules about how public officials can spend campaign money and to push through a comprehensive revision of the rest of the state’s election code. House members Tuesday voted to pass an amended version of Senate Bill 2689 , which would place new limits on spend campaign donations.

“Both are much more important to me than early voting,” Hosemann said.