Voter engagement: How to assure voting matters in your community

By Pallascene Bright Cole 

Special to The Mississippi Link

Your vote matters! For the past year, day in and day out, 24/7, America media shows all the negative reasons that your vote does not count. Hogwash! Just the fact that so many people live in scarcity is the main result of not voting.

Why do you think some leaders are dismantling voters’ rights legislations? It is to prohibit or make it difficult to vote. We have a responsibility to keep all citizens engaged so we can have a voice in how elected leaders vote on issues important to us.

The future of the community on such issues as education, healthcare, economic development, safety regulations, technology access, or faith-based issues are at stake.

Think about the water crisis in Flint, Mich. The afflicted population was not engaged and failed to vote to keep the maintenance of the livelihood they possessed.  Flint still does not have enough caring leaders to help get relief after all these months.

To assure your vote counts, get familiar with the following laws regarding voter registration in Mississippi:

• Visit or call the county circuit clerk’s office to learn which precinct you should cast your vote

• Find out if your voting precinct changed if you have moved. If your name or address changes, update your information (HB 809 passed during the 2016 Mississippi Regular Legislative Session to facilitate online updates if you are already registered to vote. This law becomes effective July 1, within 30 days of the next election

• Register to vote if you are a new citizen to the state of Mississippi or will be age 18 before the next election. You must be registered to vote 30 days before the election (primary, special or general election)

• Do not send your jury duty summons back with the wrong address. This can trigger removing you from the voter rolls

• Call your election commissioner to learn the types of acceptable identifications or access the Secretary of State Office website at A photo identification is required to vote in the state of Mississippi. Should you fail to present acceptable identification, Mississippi law allows you to still vote at the precinct by affidavit ballot. Present your identification at the circuit clerk’s office within five days after the election and your vote will still count

• Vote early. If you are 65 years of age or older, you do not need an excuse to vote by absentee ballot. Be sure to review a sample ballot first to assure you vote for your desired candidate(s)

• Complete the entire envelope (white or yellow) and sign it should you vote by affidavit or provisional ballot. Don’t stop there. After the election, inquire with your circuit clerk or election commissioner to assure your vote was verified and counted

• State and local governments are required to ensure that permanently disabled voters, elderly voters or voters with injuries have an equal opportunity to vote by the Americans with Disabilities Act

• Curbside voting or permanently physically disabled voting is done by driving within the vicinity of the precinct to cast the vote. Permanently physically disabled voters must secure a medical statement from a practicing medical doctor or licensed nurse practitioner verifying that it is difficult for the voter to vote at the precinct. The voter’s medical request must be approved at least 60 days prior to the next election.  The absentee ballot is mailed to the voter’s address for completion at least 45 days prior to the election.

Timing is everything in getting your community engaged in the voting process. Energize your community by making voting essential or an urgency for way-of-life improvements. Make election day a family, friend or church outing event. Offer transportation to the elderly or provide a mock election for youth involvement.

Make voting pleasurable, personal and positive by getting the community mobilized for action. Vote. It’s your right.

Pallascene Bright Cole is chair of the Madison County Election Commission and serves as election commissioner of District 5. Cole is a former educator and her community services include providing student scholarships, educational training, tutoring and mentoring, economic development and speaking to groups on the importance of registering to vote. She can be contacted at

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