Federal Judge Blocks Mississippi Law Regarding Absentee Ballots

July 26, 2023

A federal judge Tuesday blocked a Mississippi law that would make it a crime for certain individuals to help another person with absentee voting. 

Judge Henry Wingate of the Southern District of Mississippi wrote in his order that the state cannot enforce the law during this year’s primaries—for which or the general election. 

“The voting polls are expected to extend outstretched hands of welcome and provide unfettered access to conscientious citizens anxious to enjoy ‘participatory democracy,’ whether those citizens be among the vulnerable and the disabled,” the judge wrote.

He added that the law violates the federal Voting Rights Act, which states that any voter who is blind, disabled or unable to read may receive assistance “by a person of the voter’s choice” other than the voter’s employer or union. 

The Mississippi law dictates a short list of people who are eligible to “collect and transmit” an absentee ballot, including mail carriers or any “family member, household member or caregiver” of the person receiving an absentee ballot.

Anyone who violates the law, which was supposed to be enacted July 1 before it faced legal challenges, could be punished with up to a year in jail and a $3,000 fine.

“Mississippi voters in need of assistance to vote can be assured that their voices will be heard at the ballot box,” Peg Ciraldo, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Mississippi, said in a statement following the judge’s order. “The League and its members can now continue our critical work to advocate for all voters, especially those who depend on us to return their absentee ballot.”

Absentee ballots for Mississippi governor and other state offices in the state’s August 8 primary are already available to the voting public.

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