Miss. voter registration deadline is on Friday

Published 7:25 pm Wednesday, October 4, 2006

South Mississippi election officials are scrambling to handle a surge of paperwork as people affected by Hurricane Katrina update their voter-registration records.

This coming Friday is the statewide deadline to either file a new voter registration or to update an existing one before the Nov. 7 general election.

“(Last) Friday was a busy day and yesterday and today,” Karen Ruhr, chief deputy circuit clerk in Hancock County, said in a phone interview Tuesday.

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The general election ballot features one U.S. Senate race and a U.S. House race in each of the four districts. Circuit, chancery and some appellate judicial races also will be decided, as will local races for elections commissioners and some school boards.

Four legislative vacancies also will be filled in different parts of the state — one on the coast, one in south central Mississippi and two in the Delta.

Mississippi’s top elections official, Secretary of State Eric Clark, has been conducting a voter outreach program to let people know what to do if they were forced to move because of Hurricane Katrina, which struck on Aug. 29, 2005. Among other things, Clark’s office has run full-page advertisements in some newspapers telling people what to do if their local precinct was destroyed by the storm — call the local circuit clerk to find out where to go.

“If you have been temporarily displaced and intend to return to your home, there is no need to change your voter registration,” Clark says on a Web site his office set up to help Mississippians displaced by Katrina.

Joe Martin, circuit clerk in coastal Jackson County, said a person who had to move to central Mississippi’s Rankin County because of Katrina recently called and asked about voting next month.

“Even if their home is gone down here, if they still claim Jackson County as their residency they can vote by absentee,” Martin said Tuesday

People are being told the same thing in Hancock County and coastal Harrison County: They can keep using their old address if they intend to move back there someday — even if the only thing at the old address is a concrete slab. But, if they’ve moved into what they consider a permanent new home, they need to reregister.

Connie Ladner, chief deputy circuit clerk in coastal Harrison County, said hundreds of people have either updated their information or turned in new registrations during the past few days.

“Normally, it’s not very busy with registrations in a judicial election,” Ladner said.

On the Net:

Outreach for Mississippi voters: http://www.katrinavoters.com