AP Election Brief | What to expect in Mississippi’s state primaries

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Tuesday is primary day in Mississippi, with Gov. Tate Reeves’ bid for renomination to a second term topping the list of contests voters will decide.

Reeves, who was first elected in 2019 after serving two terms as lieutenant governor, faces two challengers in the Republican primary: military veteran David Hardigree and physician and anti-vaccination activist John Witcher. The winner will face Democrat Brandon Presley, a state utility regulator and cousin of rock ’n’ roll legend Elvis Presley. Presley is unopposed for the Democratic nomination. Mississippi has one of only three gubernatorial elections on the ballot this year.

Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann also faces a Republican primary challenge in a race that has turned increasingly nasty. His opponent is state Sen. Chris McDaniel, a four-term state legislator who is no stranger to challenging incumbents from his own party. He nearly toppled seven-term Sen. Thad Cochran in 2014 and briefly challenged Sen. Roger Wicker in 2018 before trying again unsuccessfully for Cochran’s seat after his resignation. A third candidate, educator Tiffany Longino, could help force the race to a runoff later this month.

Voters will also select nominees for 60 contested state legislative races and two regional seats for the state’s utility regulator. And there are statewide primaries for agriculture commissioner and insurance commissioner.

Here’s a look at what to expect on election night:

ELECTION DAY

Polls close statewide at 8 p.m. ET or 7 p.m. local time (CT).

WHAT’S ON THE BALLOT

The Associated Press will declare winners in 66 primary elections in Mississippi. These include four statewide races for governor, lieutenant governor, agriculture commissioner and insurance commissioner, 16 primaries for state Senate and 44 for the state House of Representatives. Two of three regional seats for the state Public Service Commission also face primaries. Winners must receive more than 50% of the total vote to avoid an Aug. 29 runoff. Fifteen races, including statewide races for governor, lieutenant governor and agriculture commissioner, have three or more candidates and are potentially subject to a runoff.

WHO GETS TO VOTE

Mississippi has an open primary system, which means voters may participate in any party’s primary, and their choice is recorded. In the event of a runoff, voters may vote only with the same party as they did in the primary.

DECISION NOTES

The AP does not make projections and will declare a winner only when it’s determined there is no scenario that would allow the trailing candidates to close the gap. If a race has not been called, the AP will continue to cover any newsworthy developments, such as candidate concessions or declarations of victory. In doing so, the AP will make clear that it has not yet declared a winner and explain why.

The biggest potential delay in reporting final winners on Tuesday may be determining whether a candidate has cleared the threshold needed to avoid a runoff. Races in which the leading candidate hovers near the 50% mark may not be called until additional votes are counted, even if the front-runner leads the rest of the field by a significant margin. The AP will either call winners in races in which a candidate has clearly received more than 50% of the vote or declare that no candidate has received a majority and that the race will advance to a runoff.

There are no mandatory recounts in Mississippi.

WHAT DO TURNOUT AND ADVANCE VOTE LOOK LIKE

As of July 1, there were 1.9 million active voters registered in Mississippi. The state does not register voters by party. Turnout in the 2019 primary for governor was 15% of registered voters in the Democratic contest and 19% for Republicans. The result was similar in the 2015 primary: 15% for Democrats, 14% for Republicans.

Relatively few Mississippi voters cast ballots before Election Day. The state does not allow in-person early voting and allows absentee-by-mail voting only for those who provide a valid excuse. In the 2018, 2020 and 2022 state primaries, only about 4% voted by absentee ballot. The state reported a total of 20,468 absentee ballots received as of July 31, out of almost 27,000 total absentee ballots requested by voters. Absentee ballots must be postmarked by Election Day and must be received by Aug. 15.

HOW LONG DOES VOTE-COUNTING USUALLY TAKE

In the 2019 general election, the AP first reported results at 8:12 p.m. ET. The election night tabulation ended shortly after 1:30 a.m. ET with 95% of the votes counted.

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Cover Photo: Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves addresses the crowd at the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia, Miss., July 27, 2023. Reeves faces two opponents in the party primary Aug. 8, as he seeks reelection. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

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