With the midterm election just weeks away, the Legal Defense Fund is doing everything it takes to ensure voters feel empowered and informed to cast their ballots.
The racial justice organization teamed up with several civil rights groups to send a letter to Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson, urging the department to post accurate polling site information for voters. This is the second letter the Legal Defense Fund has sent this year.
According to the non-profit’s most recent letter, officials from the organization say that Watson failed to implement the recommendations they proposed in their first letter sent back in March. In their first notice, the organization urged the Mississippi Secretary of State’s office to create regulations that would help accurately and promptly report polling site changes to the secretary “as local officials are statutorily obligated to do.”
Here’s what the Legal Defense Fund wants
The organization asked Watson to establish a timeline for local officials to report poll site changes. They also want the office to create a system that reminds and instructs local officials about the notice they must send voters when their polling site changes. So far, none of their demands have been met.
“We are concerned that your refusal to implement the specific recommendations we outlined in our previous letter has and will result in the continued disenfranchisement of Mississippians,” the Legal Defense Fund said in their letter released Friday. “Public reporting and our monitoring have revealed that many polling place changes that occurred since the 2020 election were either not reflected in the Statewide Election Management System (SEMS) or were reflected incorrectly leading up to the June 2022 primary election.”
The same issue occurred during the 2020 election.
Many local officials failed to provide accurate polling information during the 2020 and 2022 primary elections. This resulted in inaccurate information in the statewide election management system, which the secretary controls. According to the Legal Defense Fund, “local election officials in Mississippi changed polling sites in at least 55 precincts before the 2020 election, but the Secretary of State reported changes in only 17 precincts.”
The alleged oversight previously impacted nearly 65,000 voters, many of whom were Black. In 2020, nineteen counties failed to report one or more polling site changes before the general election. In eleven of those counties, Black people made up 40 percent of the population.
“With the November 2022 general election only weeks away, these problems stand to repeat themselves,” the Legal Defense Fund said, adding, “It is therefore critical that you promptly take the steps outlined in our previous letter—which you have the authority to do—to ensure that voters receive the correct information about where they are supposed to vote on Election Day.”
Read the full letter here.