08 Nov Mississippi Center For Justice Files Suit on Behalf of Mississippi Votes for Extension of Hours at Four Polling Locations After Inadequate Ballot Access, Long Lines Plague Statewide Election
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 8, 2023
Contact: Mandesha Thornton
Contact: Henry Goss
Jackson, MS — During yesterday’s statewide elections, Hinds County—Mississippi’s most populous county—had ballot shortages throughout the day across a wide swath of precincts, impacting thousands of Mississippi voters. As a result, two separate lawsuits were filed to extend poll hours past the standard poll closing time of 7:00 p.m. By law, when Mississippi polls close, each polling location must remain operative as late as is necessary to allow every person who is in line by closing time to vote—no matter how long it takes.
Mississippi Votes, represented by the Mississippi Center for Justice, filed a case in Circuit Court yesterday seeking an extension of poll closure time from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. for only four precincts in Hinds County with chronic and ongoing ballot shortage problems: Old Byram (Byram City Hall); Clinton 3 (Northside Baptist Church); Raymond 1 (United Methodist Church); Clinton 2 (Wildwood Baptist Church).
The Mississippi Democratic Party then filed a separate case in Chancery Court seeking a county-wide extension of poll closure time from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
The Chancery Court granted the Mississippi Democratic Party’s request that all polls in Hinds County remain open until 8:00 p.m. Separately, the Circuit Court issued an order in the Mississippi Votes case that “granted in part and denied in part” the relief requested, and then clarified in response to a request for reconsideration that—as to those four polling places listed above—the polls would stay open until 9:00 p.m. for people who were in line to vote by 7:00 p.m., which is neither the law (which at minimum requires polls to stay open for however long is necessary, including past 9:00 p.m., for voters in line at 7:00 p.m to cast a ballot) nor the relief requested, which the Court partially granted. Because of the conflicting guidance with regards to these four precincts only, Mississippi Votes is appealing the Circuit Court order.
Importantly, the Circuit Court order only applied to four polling locations. The Circuit Court order did not reverse the Chancery Court order as to all other polling locations in Hinds County. Therefore, the Chancery Court order extending poll closing time until 8:00 p.m. (such that the polls should stay open as long as necessary for all people in line to vote by 8:00 p.m. to cast their ballot) was in force all day yesterday as to all polling locations in Hinds County other than the four listed above. The Mississippi Republican Party has appealed that Chancery Court order to the Mississippi Supreme Court, which has not yet ruled on the appeal.
In brief, all polling locations in Hinds County, by order of the Chancery Court, were to remain open as long as necessary for all people in line to vote by 8:00 p.m. to cast their ballot, with the possible exception of only four polling locations which are the subject of the Circuit Court case: Old Byram (Byram City Hall); Clinton 3 (Northside Baptist Church); Raymond 1 (United Methodist Church); Clinton 2 (Wildwood Baptist Church). Plaintiff Mississippi Votes in the Circuit Court case is appealing the order, which applies only to those four polling locations.
Arekia Bennett-Scott, Executive Director of Mississippi Votes, issued the following statement: “We are deeply concerned about the issues that occurred during yesterday’s elections in Hinds County. These issues deter eligible voters from participating in the democratic process and undermine the integrity of the election itself. We will keep working diligently to improve the voting process in our state and promote a culture of civic engagement to protect the integrity of our elections.”
Harya Tarekegn, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Mississippi Center for Justice, added, “Several polling locations across the state experienced extensive delays and inadequate ballot supplies throughout the day, effectively suppressing votes and placing undue burdens on citizens exercising their right to vote. The Mississippi Center for Justice remains committed to ensuring every Mississippian has the opportunity to express their voice through voting.”
The Mississippi Center for Justice is dedicated to dismantling the state’s culture of inequity and injustice. Supported and staffed by attorneys and other professionals, the Center develops and pursues strategies to combat discrimination and poverty statewide.
Mississippi Votes is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that works to promote a culture of civic engagement throughout the state of Mississippi. For more information about Mississippi Votes, visit www.msvotes.org.