As of Sept. 21, absentee voting is in effect in Forrest and Lamar counties for registered voters who may not be in their county for the Nov. 3 general election.
The process began at 8 a.m. Sept. 21 and will run through 5 p.m. Oct. 31. Absentee voting is available for anyone who is 65 years of age or older, disabled individuals, and voters who will be outside the county because of work, school, vacation or other prior arrangements.
“We just want to give everybody an opportunity to vote,” Lamar County Circuit Clerk Martin Hankins said. “If they’re not going to be able to be here on Election Day, they need to have every opportunity to be able to do that, and we want to make sure everybody has that.”
Individuals can vote absentee at the Forrest County Circuit Clerk’s office at 630 Main St. in Hattiesburg or the Lamar County Circuit Clerk’s office at 403 Main St. in Purvis. Voters also can call Forrest County at (601) 582-3213 or Lamar County at (601) 794-8504.
Because of changes made by the Mississippi Legislature this year, absentee votes will count as final once they are cast.
“For example, let’s say (prior to this year) you were scheduled to work offshore or go on vacation, and you decided to go vote absentee,” Hankins said. “But then if weather or a hurricane or something came in, and prohibited you from taking your trip, then you could go to the polls and vote, but your absentee ballot would be thrown out.
“So, you could have gone to the polls and voted on Election Day, but your absentee ballot would have been vacated. But now, your absentee is your final vote.”
Hankins said he expects a big absentee turnout this year.
“We opened this morning (Sept. 21), and it was raining, and we had our first couple of voters at 8:15,” he said. “And we’re getting a steady flow right now, and we’re 45 days out.”
Forrest County District 5 election commissioner Sue Polk said approximately 30 people showed up at the circuit court to vote absentee by 8 a.m. Sept. 21.
“They’ve already had over 500 requests before the day even started, for ballots to be sent to them,” she said. “It’s going to be a big turnout on absentees, it sure is.”
The registration deadline to vote in the general election is 5 p.m. Oct. 5.
The Lamar County Circuit Clerk’s office will open from 8 a.m.-noon on several Saturdays, including Oct. 3, Oct. 24 and Oct. 31, to accommodate absentee voters.
“We’ve got men and women who fight overseas, and have fought overseas in the past, and are continuing to fight overseas right now for us to be able to have our right to be heard,” Hankins said. “They give us that right, and so we need to make sure to get out and vote.”