Mississippi’s resistance to early voting — and the backtracking of other Republican-led states that previously were receptive to it — makes sense only if you consider it from a politically cynical perspective.
There’s a perception within the GOP — reinforced by Donald Trump’s loss last year in the presidential election — that early voting is more beneficial to Democrats than it is to Republicans, and thus the less of it the better.
This early-voting tilt, though, toward Democratic candidates, if it exists at all, is only a recent phenomenon and can be partly blamed on Trump himself. While Democrats last year were encouraging their supporters to cast ballots early, whether by mail or in-person, and to take advantage of pandemic-related expansions of those options, Trump was discouraging his voters from doing the same. He wanted to create the narrative that the election was being stolen from him. The way he decided to try to build his case was to show a massive advantage in early voting for Joe Biden.
However, according to some election observers, this association between early voting and voter fraud has got it backward. Early voting doesn’t encourage fraud; it helps prevent it.
That’s what David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation & Research, recently told Mississippi Today. Becker, it should be noted, is not some partisan shill. He previously served under both Democratic and Republican administrations as a senior attorney in the U.S. Justice Department.
“The most secure states are those that allow for voting to be spread out over a series of days and series of methods,” Becker said. That’s because, if there are problems, it’s easier to catch and correct them if the volume of voting is spread out, rather than in one large rush at the end.
Unfortunately, Mississippi is one of just seven states that still does not allow no-excuse early voting in any form. In this state, only the disabled, those who will be away from home on Election Day and those who are 65 and older are allowed to vote early. Mississippi relaxed those rules just slightly to accommodate COVID-19 last fall.
At a minimum, Mississippi should allow anyone to vote early in-person, even if only at a circuit clerk’s office. Most people want the convenience, and the risk of fraud would be as minimal as it is with voting in person at a precinct on Election Day.
Nor is there any legitimate reason to assume in-person early voting would benefit one party more than another. It would benefit any party that encourages it, and both would have to if it became law.