By Natalie Chandler

Hattiesburg American–January 27, 2011

Mississippians could head to the polls two weeks before Election Day if a key piece of legislation continues advancing in the 2009 regular session.

But the future doesn’t appear bright for House Bill 185 unless lawmakers find a way to compromise. Senate leaders want voter identification provisions added to the bill that cleared a key House committee Tuesday.

The early voting measure must first gain approval from the full House before moving to the Senate for consideration. It would allow voters to head to the polls 15 days before Election Day in county, state and federal races.

Most states allow early voting. In Mississippi, only residents eligible to vote absentee may vote early, including college students, active-duty military, seniors, the disabled and residents who will be away on Election Day.

House Apportionment and Elections Committee Chairman Tommy Reynolds said early voting works well in neighboring states and helps shorten lines at the polls.

“The (voters) love it, (circuit) clerks love it,” Reynolds, D-Charleston, said.

Lawmakers are making a push for early voting because of record turnout in the presidential election last November.

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