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Did You Forget Something? Mississippi's Missing Ballot Language Prompts Scramble

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[Image courtesy of www.sos.ms.gov]

On November 8, Mississippi voters will head to the polls for a statewide general election. The ballot includes three statewide questions, including one on voter ID. Absentee voting has already started in the state's 82 counties and election officials have begun to prepare voting machines for Election Day.

Now, however, the election community is scrambling to correct an omission on the ballot: language detailing the fiscal impact of voter ID and two other initiatives. Last Friday, the state Attorney General notified the Secretary of State's office that the ballots published to the counties in mid-September lacked the following required language for the voter ID initiative:

Based on Fiscal Year 2010 information, the Department of Public Safety issued 107,094 photo IDs to offset a portion of $17.92 cost per ID. The cost is estimated to remain the same, but the assessment will no longer be allowable under the provision of Initiative 27 (voter ID). Therefore, the Department of Public Safety is estimated to see a loss of revenue of approximately $1,499,000.

Also, two other initiatives without fiscal impacts will get this language: "There is no determinable cost or revenue impact associated with this initiative."

In response, counties will be adding the language to voting machines and including it as an insert with absentee ballots. A Jackson County election commissioner described the mistake as "irritating" but vowed "we'll get through this."

The Secretary of State's office has said that ballots already received from voters without the language will count - but it will be interesting to see if the omission becomes an issue for the losing side in any of these initiatives whether or not the outcome is close.

I'll also be watching to see if other local election officials are as sanguine about the error as Jackson County. Unlike the case in Connecticut I blogged about earlier this week, this appears to have been a preventable error. Technically, the Secretary's office should have caught the mistake - but 82 counties overlooked it as well. If problems do arise as a result of the oversight, an epic game of fingerpointing could ensue.

If nothing else, this is the last thing election officials in Mississippi wanted to be dealing with two weeks before a statewide election. Stay tuned.

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