Mississippi election leader predicts strong voter turnout

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018, that nearly twice as many people have requested absentee ballots this year than during the last federal midterm election in 2014, during a news conference in his Jackson, Miss., office. Hosemann is predicting strong voter turnout as people statewide choose two U.S. senators. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi’s top elections official is predicting strong voter turnout as people statewide choose two U.S. senators.

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said Wednesday that nearly twice as many people have requested absentee ballots this year than during the last federal midterm election in November 2014.

“It looks like we’re going to have a record turnout for a (midterm) election,” Hosemann said.

He said 50,571 absentee ballots have been requested this year, compared with 25,395 four years ago. Absentees usually account for 4 percent to 5 percent of the overall number of ballots cast in Mississippi, he said.

In addition to the two Senate races, there is a race in each of the four U.S. House districts. Nonpartisan judicial races are also on the ballot .

Absentee voting in circuit clerk’s offices ends at noon Saturday, and absentee ballots returned by mail must be received by Monday.

Regular in-person voting is 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday, and voters will need to show a driver’s license or another type of government-issued photo identification at the polls.

It’s unusual for any state to have two U.S. Senate races in a single year.

In one race, Republican Sen. Roger Wicker is seeking another six-year term to the seat he has held since late 2007. He is challenged by Democratic state Rep. David Baria, Libertarian Danny Bedwell and Reform Party candidate Shawn O’Hara.

The other Senate race is a special election, and the winner will serve the final two years of a term started by longtime Republican Sen. Thad Cochran, who retired in April. The Republican who was appointed to temporarily succeed him, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, is challenged by Republican state Sen. Chris McDaniel and two Democrats: Mike Espy, who is a former congressman and former U.S. agriculture secretary and Tobey Bernard Bartee, a former military intelligence officer. Party labels won’t appear on the special election ballot. If nobody wins a majority, the two leaders will compete in a Nov. 27 runoff.