- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Five of Mississippi’s 82 counties are reporting high rates of absentee voting, the state’s top elections official said Tuesday.

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said about 5 percent to 6 percent of voters usually cast absentee ballots.

Hosemann said the rate so far this year is nearly 14 percent in Noxubee County, 11 percent in Quitman County, 8 percent in Claiborne County, 7 percent in Tallahatchie County and 6 percent in Benton County. All five are Democratic-leaning counties.

“High absentee ballots are always cause for concern with our agency,” Hosemann, a Republican said in a news release. “Now that Mississippi has passed voter ID, absentee balloting has the highest potential for fraud in our state.”

Noxubee County Circuit Clerk Freda Phillips did not immediately return a call seeking comment Tuesday.

Hosemann said he’s asking circuit clerks to give him copies of all absentee ballots after the Aug. 4 party primaries for state and county offices.

Noon Saturday is the deadline for in-person absentee voting in clerks’ offices. Clerks must receive mail-in absentee ballots by 5 p.m. Monday.

State law says people may vote absentee if they are 65 or older, if they are permanently disabled or if they are going to be out of town on election day.

Hosemann said Washington County and Jackson County have the lowest rate of absentee voting so far this year, each below 1 percent.

His announcement about absentee voting rates came just before one of the biggest political events of the year, the Neshoba County Fair, where candidates for statewide, regional and local offices give speeches to large crowds. Hosemann is scheduled to speak at the fair Thursday.

Hosemann was among the most outspoken supporters of a voter identification law that was used for the first time in 2014. It requires people to show a driver’s license or other government-issued ID at the polls. Critics say voter ID is an attempt to suppress votes from poor people and minorities in a state that decades ago used poll taxes and other tactics to thwart black voting.

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Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: https://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .


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