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Absentee voting has now begun

Absentee voting has begun, and there’s still plenty of time before November’s election for civic-minded citizens to get their voting affairs in order.

Lincoln County Circuit Clerk Dustin Bairfield said absentee voting will continue through Saturday, Nov. 3, and his office will be open from 8 a.m. to noon that day to receive the final votes from those who will be out of town, working, have a disability that prohibits in-person voting or any other of the few provisions that allow absentee voting before the Nov. 6 general election. Though absentee voting usually gets off to a slow start, Bairfield said more than 10 people had already requested mail-out ballots or voted via absentee ballot in his office Monday, the first day of absentee voting.

“In the primaries, I think we had been voting a solid week before we had 10, so by this indicator, we should have a lot bigger turnout for the November election,” he said. “It’s because it’s the election, by far, but then also I think us having the U.S. Senate spot on the ballot, and having a candidate here locally, has generated a lot of interest in the election. People are more aware.”

This year’s general election features a special election for Mississippi’s Senate seat, currently held by Brookhaven Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith, who was appointed in March by Gov. Phil Bryant to step in for longtime Sen. Thad Cochran, who resigned for health reasons.

Hyde-Smith is facing Republican state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who almost unhorsed Cochran in a nasty 2014 election; Democrat Mike Espy, a former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture; and Tobey Bernard Bartee, a former intelligence officer with the U.S. Navy.

Those voting absentee by mailed ballot must have their ballots returned to the circuit clerk’s office by 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 5, the day before the election — not postmarked, not on the way, but in the office. Only mailed ballots received from currently-serving members of the military will be received afterward, as that group may vote electronically throughout election day.

“Please do not wait until the last minute to mail your ballot back to us,” Bairfield said. “Sometimes we see, just like with jury summons, a two- or three-day turnaround. Election materials and ballots are a priority with the post office, but voters need to realize our mail is sorted through Jackson, so you’re not guaranteed next day delivery.”

The senior Senate seat is also on the ballot in November, with incumbent Republican Roger Wicker defending against state Rep. David Baria, a Democrat; Danny Bedwell, a Libertarian; and Shawn O’Hara of the Reform Party.

Lincoln County voters will also decide the next representative for Congressional District 3 — Republican Michael Guest, the district attorney for Madison and Rankin counties, will face state Rep. Michael Ted Evans, a Democrat; and Reform Party candidate Matthew Holland. The winner will replace U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper, a Pearl Republican, who will not seek reelection after 10 years in Congress.

Locally, Justin Laird will ascend to the Lincoln County School District Board of Trustees in Educational District 1 in an unopposed contest, while Educational District 2 incumbent Johnny Hart will defend against retired coach Billy Vaughn. Educational District 5 incumbent Joanna Posey will face physical therapist Tim Cunningham and retired teacher Lora Hedgepeth.

Mississippi Circuit Court District 14 incumbent judge Michael Taylor will defend his spot on the bench against David Lee Brewer in a non-partisan race, while his judicial companion — judge David Strong — will reclaim his position unopposed.

The judgeship for Chancery Court District 15 will be decided in a non-partisan election between Joseph Durr and Renee Berry; while Byron Carter, David McCarty and Jeff Weill, Sr., will run in a non-political race for Court of Appeals District 4.

David M. Ishee will gain the District 2 seat in the Mississippi Supreme Court after running unopposed in a non-political race.

Anyone who has just moved to Lincoln County, or any teenagers who will turn 18 prior to Nov. 6, may still register to vote by Saturday, Oct. 6 — 30 days before the election. Bairfield’s office will be open from 8 a.m. to noon that day to handle any last-minute registrations. Existing voters who need to make changes to their name or address may do so until Oct. 6.

Polls will be open for the Nov. 6 election from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Photo identification is required to vote. City residents whose voter registration cards list both “wards” and “precincts” will vote at the listed precinct — ward locations are for city elections only.

A step-by-step voting guide containing all important dates, deadlines and procedures can be found at the Mississippi Secretary of State’s website on the “elections” page.