With midterm elections taking place in less than a month, the Lafayette County Circuit Clerk has noticed an uptick in voter registration.
“That’s not unusual when the students come back in town, and there’s a statewide or federal election,” Lafayette County Circuit Clerk Baretta Mosley said.
Although registration has increased with the school year, Mosley said she is unsure that newly registered voters will actually show up to the polls. As more candidates file into town to campaign, Mosley said she is putting her hope in the candidates and parties to get people to the polls in November.
“It’s encouraging to me that there seems to be more interest in this particular election,” Mosley said. “Absentee ballots are up. I just hope it continues to be.”
According to Mosley, it takes a minimum of $40,000 to prepare for an election in the county. That includes hiring election workers, paying software workers, paying for the database that the election is held on, the maintenance of the equipment and enabling county employees to work extra hours to ensure citizens are registered.
“It all factors in,” Mosley said. “The county has to pay for the election regardless of how many people come out to vote. It doesn’t matter whether 10 percent turnout or 100 percent. We still have to go through the same procedure of ordering ballots, setting up machines and staying extra hours.”
Citizens can register in person at the circuit county clerk’s office, which is located on the Square, or citizens can access the voter registration form online and mail the form in to the circuit clerk’s office.
Mosley said the voter turnout is usually very low in the county, and that if there is even a 40 percent voter turnout rate, that’s a good rate for the county.
“There’s no excuse for anybody who wants to (vote). Once you get registered, you need to go vote,” Mosley said.
Bess Nichols, a recent graduate from the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, said she researched voting patterns of Millennials and the “Baby Boomer” generation during the 2016 election by sending out surveys in April and November of 2016. She found that voter turnout for the 2016 election was roughly 55 percent of eligible voters.
“For better or worse, many of the recent forefront political issues in our country have been incredibly polarizing,” Nichols said. “It is my hope that a little piece of good to come out of political division is that people realize their vote is their voice, and that they realize if they want to impact change, they have to speak up.”
Nichols works with Mississippi Votes, an organization that encourages young people to vote.
“The grassroots efforts that Mississippi Votes does to make voter registration accessible to the ‘average Joe’ are a great starting point to get more people involved,” Nichols said.
Walton Turnage, a junior at Ole Miss, recently registered to vote in the state of Mississippi. Turnage is a native Mississippian from Meridian, but moved to Florida when she was in high school. She said that knowing she was going to move back to Mississippi for college, she was not aware of what state to register in until now.
“I don’t like the way things are in Mississippi,” Turnage said. “Even if I do go against the majority, I want to be able to say I tried to make a difference.”
Turnage said that while the importance of each state’s election has been a drive for her to register to vote, she does not see the same results in other students. She said many of her friends are also not registered to vote.
Turnage said she plans to remind people to go to the polls as the election approaches, as well as offer rides on the day of the election.