Hattiesburg, Miss. (Hattiesburg American)-
The voter turnout in the June 5 Mississippi primary elections was abysmal, and Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann doesn’t want a repeat in the Nov. 6 general election.
He came to Hattiesburg Tuesday to kick off a statewide effort — meeting with local elected officials and asking them to get out the vote in November.
“The number of people voting in Forrest County (in June) was 6,093 out of 44,727 — 13.6 percent of people voting in the primary here, Republican and Democrat,” he told an audience at the Forrest County Courthouse. “In Lamar County, it was just a little bit better — 5,165 voted out of 32,310 who are eligible to vote or 15.9 percent.”
The numbers statewide mirrored those locally, with 245,100 of more than 1.8 million registered voters going to the polls in June for a 13.4 percent turnout.
“We have an opportunity to get a second chance,” Hosemann said. “That second chance will come during the general election in November.
“That’s why we’re going around having meetings all over the state to get people to start thinking about November.”
Hosemann said voters should remember the Mississippi men and women in the armed services who fight overseas to protect the right to vote.
“You and I will be able to get in our truck and go vote at hundreds of precincts (in the state),” he said. “You have a right to vote, but you also have an obligation.
“If it is not enough to exercise your right, you should exercise your obligation.”
Hattiesburg City Council Member Deborah Delgado attended the meeting and said she was concerned about what she heard.
“It just means all of us need to be out there encouraging people to vote,” she said. “I am really concerned about voter apathy and low voter turnout.
Hosemann also said Mississippi’s voting systems are secure. The state recently received $4.5 million from the federal government to upgrade the Statewide Election Management System.
That money was matched with $224,000 from Hosemann’s office budget.
He said the money will go to counties for security and election upgrades. Counties have to apply for the funds and could receive them in 60-90 days.
Hosemann did warn about the information voters see on Facebook and other electronic media. He said the Russians are adept at putting out messages that look like they are coming from legitimate political parties.
He advised voters to educate themselves on the issues.
“We will have the opportunity to see all kinds of things come across our internet,” he said. “They can say just about anything.
“We have to look at what the candidates are actually saying, what are their positions, what they are for and what are they against.”
Hosemann also launched, for the first time this year, his youth voter program Promote the Vote. He went to two schools in the Hattiesburg Public School District to talk about art and essay contests and a mock election.
“We are seeing historically low turnout at the ballot box, so it is more important than ever to teach our children about the importance of civic engagement and how every vote counts,” he said in a statement.
At a glance
Sept. 24: Absentee balloting begins
Oct. 8: In-person voter registration deadline
Oct. 9: Mail-in voter registration deadline (postmark)
Nov. 6: General election