You Asked: How does a runoff election work? Tuesday’s competition could lead to follow-up

Published 8:49 pm Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Q: With nine candidates competing for one seat in Congress, you asked — how would a runoff work?

A: The process of a runoff is simple — a runoff is held after a primary election if one candidate does not receive the majority of votes cast. In that case, a runoff election between the top two vote-getters from the primary will be held three weeks later.

This year, nine candidates — six Republicans, two Democrats and one Reform Party candidate — are competing for Mississippi’s 3rd Congressional District, which is wide open due to the retirement of current Rep. Gregg Harper. U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker is defending his seat against nine other challengers — six Democrats, a Republican, a Libertarian and a Reform Party candidate.

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With so many candidates in the race, Lincoln County Circuit Clerk Dustin Bairfield said a runoff is expected.

“I would say the odds are in favor of having a runoff. I did poll worker training today, and I told about 90 poll workers to be prepared for a runoff,” he said.

Polls will open for the 2018 primary election on Tuesday, June 5, at 7 a.m. and will close at 7 p.m. If a runoff is necessary — and it probably will be — it will be held on Tuesday, June 26, also from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Bairfield encouraged voters to do their civic duty Tuesday, but early absentee ballots indicate a poor voter turnout is coming. He said his office has received around 100 mail-in absentee ballots so far, and such a low number of absentee ballots usually mean a low number of voters at the polls.

“For whatever reason, the June primaries are notorious for a low turnout. But this is a federal election, and it’s important to all of us,” he said.

Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann has been pushing for the vote in recent weeks.

“Thousands of Mississippi National Guardsmen and women are deploying now for the Middle East. One of the ways we can honor their service and sacrifice is to cast a ballot in the upcoming election,” he said in a press release.

The deadline for in-person absentee voting in Saturday, June 2, which can be done in the Lincoln County Circuit Clerk’s Office from 8 a.m. to noon. The deadline for mail-in ballots to be received is 5 p.m. Monday, June 4. The circuit clerk’s office will not accept ballots mailed after that time.

At the polls, voters are required to show photo identification. Even without proper photo identification, the voter may cast an affidavit ballot. An affidavit ballot may only be counted if the voter is willing to submit photo identification to the circuit clerk’s office within five business days after the election.

Campaigning within 150 feet of any entrance to a polling place is prohibited, unless on private property. Loitering is prohibited, and anyone who is 30 feet from the polling place must be an election official, a voter waiting to vote or an authorized poll watcher. Camera phones are prohibited and cannot be used to photograph any marked ballot.

Primary elections are conducted by political parties in Mississippi. Twenty-six observers sent from the secretary of state’s office will be working across the state on election day. Any problems seen by those observers or otherwise will be reported to the proper authorities, including the Attorney General’s Office or the District Attorney’s Office.

To find your polling place location, visit

For more information about state election laws or Election Day information, visit, or call the Elections Division Hotline at 601-576-2550 or 800-829-6786. The Lincoln County Circuit Clerk’s office can be reached at 601-835-3435.

Story by Gracie Byrne