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Voters in Mississippi return to the polls on Tuesday, March 10, as the 2020 election cycle begins with the Republican and Democratic primary vote. 

In the case of the elections for U.S. Senator and House of Representatives, the primary election determines each major party’s candidate for the November election.

The presidential part of the ballot will help determine the number of delegates a candidate will receive of the state’s allotment to each national party convention.

There will be no runoff in the presidential primary, but there may be in the Senate and Congressional races if a winning candidate does not get one vote more than a 50 percent majority vote. The party runoff election will be March 31.

The DeSoto County Circuit Clerk’s office at the County Courthouse in Hernando will be open to accept absentee ballots on Saturday, March 7 from 8 a.m.-12 noon, which will be the deadline for absentee ballots.  

Polls will be open on election day from 7 a.m.-7 p.m.

Voters will be required to declare a Democratic or Republican party preference when they report to the polls or if they plan to vote an absentee ballot. They can only vote in the primary of the party they declare and cannot cross over to another party.

That declaration, of course, will not bound a voter in the November general election, but does in the primary because the primary is a party function.

Mississippi is one of seven states holding primary elections one week after the “Super Tuesday” vote of 14 states, including Tennessee, Alabama, and Arkansas. Louisiana voters will go to the polls on April 4.

On the Republican presidential primary ballot this year will be the incumbent President Donald Trump, but he has two other challengers on the ballot. They are Roque “Rocky” DeLaFuente and Bill Weld.

DeLaFuente is a Mexican-American businessman and perennial candidate. He was the nominee of both the Reform Party and his self-created American Delta Party for President of the United States in the 2016 election. His name is on the Republican ballot for the March 10 vote in Mississippi.

In addition to being on the presidential ballot, DeLaFuente’s name is also on the Republican ballot in California’s 21st District for U.S. House of Representatives.

Weld is a former Massachusetts governor who left the Republican Party in 2016 to become the Libertarian Party running mate of former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson.

Weld announced last April of his Republican challenge to Trump in the Republican primaries. He earned a delegate at the recent Iowa caucuses.

Incumbent U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith and Congressman Trent Kelly are running unopposed for re-election to their current positions in Congress in the Mississippi primary.

On the Democratic side, Mississippi voters will find 10 names on the ballot for that party’s delegates to the Democratic National Convention, even though some candidates recently suspended their campaigns, including Wednesday’s announcement of Michael Bloomberg’s withdrawal from the race.

There are three candidates on the Democratic ballot for Mississippi U.S. Senate on March 10. They are former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy, biologist/chemist Jensen Bohren, and Tobey Bartee, who was unsuccessful in his run for the same office two years ago. Bartee is a former Navy intelligence officer and State Department consultant.

Just one person is on the Democratic ballot for the U.S. House seat held by the Republican Kelly. She is Antonia Eliason, who is a law professor at the University of Mississippi.

In 2016, 415,627 Mississippians voted in the Republican presidential primary where Donald Trump garnered 196,659 votes to 150,364 for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

On the Democratic side, 227,154 voted. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton led the field with 187,334 votes compared to 37,748 for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders who is currently the Democratic front-runner.

Readers will be able to follow along with the DeSoto County vote totals Tuesday evening online at www.desototimestribune.com.

Bob Bakken is Managing Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune.