JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann is predicting a light turnout as voters elect a governor and seven other statewide officials, fill all 174 legislative seats and choose between two school funding initiatives.
Polls are open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday, and voters must show a form of government-issued photo identification, such as a driver’s license.
Because few top-of-the-ballot races are considered competitive, Hosemann said he worries many voters will stay home.
“You elect your entire Legislature and your governor. I mean, this is pretty important,” Hosemann said Monday. “They can tax you, they can put you in prison, they can fix your roads. I mean, it’s all right here.”
Gov. Phil Bryant and other top Republicans are trying to defeat Initiative 42, which got on the ballot through a citizens’ petition process. It would allow people to sue to seek funding for an “adequate and efficient” system of public schools.
Alternative Measure 42-A was put on the ballot by legislators who oppose 42. It says the Legislature would establish “effective” public schools “without judicial enforcement.”
Speaking to about 150 Republicans at the state Agriculture and Forestry Museum on Monday, Bryant said Initiative 42 would be a gift to trial lawyers.
“They won’t have to chase ambulances anymore. They can chase school buses,” Bryant said to applause from the crowd.
Michael Rejebian, co-manager of the 42 for Better Schools campaign responded in an email: “Right now, it really doesn’t matter how many cute one-liners Phil Bryant comes up with. The supporters of Initiative 42 have had enough of empty promises when it comes to public education, and they are taking matters into their own hands on Tuesday.”
Bryant’s Democratic challenger, Robert Gray, held a prayer vigil Monday in a park near the Governor’s Mansion, with fewer than a dozen people participating. Gray, a long-haul truck driver, has spent just over $3,000 on his campaign, compared to Bryant’s $2.7 million.
Speaking to reporters after his prayer, Gray continued to criticize Bryant for not expanding Medicaid to help more than 100,000 people. Bryant says he doesn’t trust the federal government’s promise to pay for most of the expansion, but Gray said Mississippi continues to lag at the bottom of many national health rankings.
“We’re the worst state in the nation and it could have been easily reversed just by him doing what he needs to do,” Gray said.