Young activists help generate greatest MS voter registration drive But Secretary of State places obstacle in way of fair voting process

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October 5, 2008, Mississippi Delta region – This summer and fall high school students, community activists and community elders – old hands and first time workers working together — scoured the rural counties of the Mississippi Delta to help generate the largest registration of new voters in the history of the state.  More than 130,000 new registrations have been recorded.  The number will continue to rise given the backlog in processing voter registration forms.

Students and activists worked with school administrations to set up voter registration booths in schools and at many school events to enable newly-eligible young citizens to register.  Community teams sought people out in their homes, at churches, at shopping malls and on the street.  Unquestionably, intense interest in the presidential race helped to fuel interest in registration.

Some uncertainty has arisen among voters because the Secretary of State has accepted the requirement by Circuit Clerks that voters use larger-than-usual envelopes to mail absentee ballots. This change in voting procedure has not been approved by the Justice Department. These larger-than-usual envelopes require two stamps rather than one. Some post offices have not been delivering absentee ballots with insufficient postage, or have been marking the ballot envelopes “postage due” when they are delivered. Several voter protection organizations have complained, but the Secretary of State has posted a notice on his website that the total postage required for oversize absentee ballot envelopes is 83 cents.

Mississippi law 23-15-681, which became effective in 2000, provides that postage cannot be required on absentee ballot envelopes. However, this statute is part of the Armed Services Absentee Voting Law and applies only to persons serving in the United States Armed Services. Therefore, the additional postage will be required for anyone not in the military.