Elmus Stockstill

Leflore County Circuit Clerk Elmus Stockstill reviews a sample ballot for the Nov. 3 election. Sample ballots are available at the Leflore County Courthouse and may also be requested by phone at 453-1435.

In the Leflore County Courthouse, Circuit Clerk Elmus Stockstill stacks a pile of papers titled “2020 General Election,” announcing that the sample ballots for the Nov. 3 election are available.

Citizens can come into the office to pick up a ballot or call 453-1435 and request that one be scanned or emailed to them.

The deadline to register is Oct. 5. Citizens may do so at the courthouse or use the Mississippi Secretary of State’s website, www.sos.ms.gov. Stockstill said there are about 21,000 registered voters in the county.

As the in-person voting date draws nearer, with documents and schedules piling up, Stockstill said he feels prepared for the big day.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, safety is a priority. Stockstill has been working with the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office and the Leflore County Election Commission to make sure things run smoothly.

“We do have in place a 6-foot rule,” he said. “All our poll workers will have masks. There will be hand sanitizer and gloves.  We want to make it that people understand that we will have safety precautions in place so they feel comfortable coming to the precinct.”

The ballot includes the presidential race and several others.

Incumbent U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, a Republican, will face Mike Espy, a Democrat, and Jimmy L. Edwards, a Libertarian.

U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Democrat, will face Brian Flowers, a Republican.

Also on the ballot, for District 1 of Leflore County, is the vote for a new school board member. Magdalene Abraham and Portia Collins, both independents,  are running for the seat formerly held by Antwoine Williams, who announced that he would not seek reelection.

Citizens also may vote on three ballot measures.

The first is an initiative measure pertaining to the use of medical marijuana. It asks voters  whether patients with debilitating medical conditions should be allowed to use the substance under the advice of a licensed Mississippi physician, and then it presents two choices: Initiative 65 and Alternative 65A.

Under Initiative 65, medical marijuana could be recommended for patients with at least one debilitating condition. It also lists specific prices and taxes needed for the program. Alternative 65A does not specify qualifying conditions or a tax rate, leaving those issues to be resolved by legislators.

Voters will be asked whether they favor either of these or oppose both. Then, they may select one or the other. If a majority of voters don’t support at least one of the two, both options are dead. If a majority of them do support at least one, the proposal that receives the most votes on the latter question passes.

The second measure is an amendment pertaining to receiving a majority of the votes in the general election for a statewide office. If approved, the measure would make it law that a candidate must receive more than half the votes to be elected, and a runoff will be held if no one receives a majority.

Currently, the Mississippi State Constitution requires a statewide candidate to win a majority of both the popular and electoral vote. If nobody wins both, the race is decided by the state House, with representatives not obligated to vote as their districts did.

Mississippi, which is the only state with this multistep process, was sued by Black plaintiffs last year because of this. The process was written when white politicians during the American Reconstruction Era were enacting laws to erase Black political power. The separate House vote was promoted as a way for the white officials to have the ultimate decision in who held office.

Lastly, the ballot includes a referendum on the design of the Mississippi flag.

Legislators voted this year to retire the previous state flag, which had a Confederate emblem. A commission spent weeks selecting a new design before recommending one that includes a magnolia, stars and the phrase “In God We Trust.”

If a majority of voters accept this design, it will become the new flag. If it is rejected, the design process starts again, with the requirement that the new one include “In God We Trust” but not the Confederate symbol.

The magnolia image on the new design was created by Sue Anna Joe, a former Greenwood resident and Pillow Academy graduate.

Contact Adam Bakst at 581-7233 or abakst@gwcommonwealth.com. Twitter: @AdamBakst_GWCW

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