Three days before the deadline last Saturday, Lauderdale County Circuit Clerk Donna Jill Johnson says more than 1,500 people registered to vote or change residence information. Of those who registered, about twenty applications were from inmates at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility in Lost Gap and another almost 40 were detainees from the Lauderdale County jail.
"We had a group to come in late Friday afternoon after 4 p.m. and request to do a voter registration drive," says Sheriff Billy Sollie. "We informed them that at this late date that it would be difficult for us to do."
Perhaps difficult, but not impossible. In fact, Sheriff Sollie says staff at the detention facility were able to hand out the forms to the inmates, get them properly filled out and returned to the circuit clerk's office before the deadline. However, now concerns are being raised by some within the community about whether this is legal. Sheriff Sollie and Johnson both say 'Yes!'
"Individuals who are housed here awaiting trials, they are still eligible to and will vote by absentee ballots," says Sollie.
"In the state of Mississippi," says Johnson, "there are just certain crimes that are listed that make somebody ineligible to vote."
Those crimes include a conviction for: murder, rape, robbery, theft, arson, obtaining money or goods under false pretense, perjury, forgery, embezzlement, bigamy and two that were newly added to the list, timber theft and carjacking. "If you commit murder in Alabama," says Johnson, "then you can vote in Mississippi and that's one of the Mississippi laws."
Although the deadline to register to vote has passed, if needed you still have time to vote by absentee ballot. With elections Nov. 2, the last day to vote absentee for everything on the ballot is Nov. 1. However, local officials are advising residents that it’s best to take care of this as soon as possible.