The Mississippi Free Press reports that Mississippi’s top election official has warned that more “woke” and “uninformed” college students being registered to vote will cause harm to the nation.
Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson made that remark in a televised interview while describing President Joe Biden’s March 6 executive order on “promoting access to voting.”
Among other things, the president’s executive order directs the heads of federal agencies to develop strategic plans to “promote voter registration and participation,” possibly including “distributing voter registration and vote-by-mail ballot applications in the course of regular services.”
On March 26, Watson claimed during an interview with WLOX that Biden was “basically employing all the federal agencies, universities and colleges to register as many folks as they can via this automatic voter registration.” Biden’s order does not mention colleges, universities or automatic registration.
“So think about all those woke college and university students now who will automatically be registered to vote whether they wanted to or not. Again, if they didn’t know to opt-out, they’re going to be automatically registered to vote and then they receive this mail-in ballot that they probably didn’t know was coming because they didn’t know they were registered to vote,” the Mississippi Republican said.
Watson added: “You’ve got an uninformed citizen who may not be prepared and ready to vote. Automatically, it’s forced on them: ‘Hey, go make a choice.’ And our country’s going to pay for those choices.”
After Twitter user @jallen1985 tweeted a video of Watson’s March 26 remarks on WLOX, former Mississippi Gov. Ray Mabus offered his assessment of the secretary’s remarks.
“His talking points are from (the) 1950s. Slightly updated. Literacy tests anyone?” wrote Mabus, who served as U.S. secretary of the Navy under former President Barack Obama.
During the Jim Crow era, segregationist politicians in Mississippi and other Deep South states used literacy tests and poll taxes to effectively bar Black people from voting. One 1955 voter application test directed election officials to name a numbered section of the Mississippi Constitution and not only ask voters to copy the text of the section, but to then describe “a reasonable interpretation” of its meaning.
The publication noted that U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) drew criticism for expressing a similar sentiment during her 2018 campaign, “after Bayou Brief published a video of her at a campaign stop in Starkville referencing ‘schools’ with ‘a lot of liberal folks … who maybe we don’t want to vote.’”
“Maybe we can make it just a little more difficult. And I think that’s a great idea,” she said in the video. Hyde-Smith later claimed she was joking but did not clarify which “schools” she was referencing.
The Free Press suggested that Watson might have been conflating Biden’s executive order with Democrats’ For the People Act, which would require “all states to enact Automatic Voter Registration for federal elections. Under it, the government would automatically register eligible citizens to vote in federal elections when they provide information to government agencies unless they opt out.”
Image credit: Screengrab / @jallen1985 / Twitter