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MS Secretary of State nominees differ on expanding early voting

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Two candidates for secretary of state said Monday that they have different ideas about whether Mississippi should change its laws to expan...
Johnny DuPree, Michael Watson

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Two candidates for secretary of statesaid Monday that they have different ideas about whether Mississippi shouldchange its laws to expand early voting.

Under current Mississippi law, absentee voting is limited topeople who have a temporary or permanent disability, are at least 65 years oldor will be out of town on Election Day.

The Republican nominee, state Sen. Michael Watson, said hesees no need to change the system.

“I think our system, as is, is working,” Watsonsaid. “Obviously, lots of excuses that you can use — work, or out of townand a few other things that you can kind of talk about. Again, we give them 45days to get in there. In my opinion, it’s easy enough as it is.”

The Democratic nominee, former Hattiesburg Mayor JohnnyDuPree, said he supports expansion of early voting to get more people involvedin the election process.

“You have a fundamental right to vote, and why do Ihave to give an excuse to vote?” DuPree said. “That’s like, why do Ihave to give an excuse to breathe? I believe that we should have no-excuseearly voting.”

Thirty-nine states allow people to vote early without havingto provide an excuse such as being out of town on election day, according tothe National Conference of State Legislatures.

The two candidates spoke Monday in Jackson at a forumsponsored by Mississippi State University’s Stennis Institute of Government andthe Capitol Press Corps. Both said they support efforts to educate people aboutvoting.

The election is Nov. 5.

DuPree and Watson are competing to succeed third-termSecretary of State Delbert Hosemann, a Republican who faces Democratic state Rep.Jay Hughes in the open race for lieutenant governor.

The secretary of state serves with the governor and attorneygeneral on the state election commission.

Candidates file campaign finance reports and businesses filedocuments of incorporation at the secretary of state’s office. The office alsoregulates charities and securities, and it oversees public land leases, whichgenerate money for schools.

DuPree, 65, is a real estate broker and served 16 years asHattiesburg mayor. He was previously a Forrest County supervisor andHattiesburg school board member. He was also the Democratic nominee forgovernor in 2011, falling to Republican Phil Bryant in the general election.

Watson, 41, of Pascagoula, is an attorney has served threeterms as a state senator in a district that’s entirely in coastal JacksonCounty.

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