CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WHSV) — West Virginia's plan to send absentee ballots for upcoming primary elections to every voter in the state has begun.
Late last month, West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner announced that he was issuing guidance and an opportunity for funding for all county clerks to mail absentee ballot applications to every single voter.
Now, on April 8, Warner says every registered voter should receive an application in the mail within the next 10 days to vote absentee in the June 9 Primary Election.
The Elections Division of West Virginia has worked with county clerks in all 55 West Virginia counties to make sure voters get the applications in time to consider voting absentee on election day.
Applications need to be returned in the voter's own handwriting by mail, fax, or email to their county clerk.
Voters who have already applied to vote absentee can disregard the mailings.
Contact information for all county clerks and access to the application online is at GoVoteWV.com.
"If a registered voter doesn't receive an application in the mail by April 17, we ask that they contact their county clerk or obtain an application online," Warner said.
Typically, in West Virginia, fewer than three percent of voters participate in elections by absentee ballot. But with the ongoing state of emergency and the spread of COVID-19, local election officials across the state are preparing for and urging voters to use the option to reduce potential spread of the disease at polling places.
Absentee ballot applications must be received by the county clerk no later than June 3. Absentee ballots must be mailed and postmarked to the county clerk by no later than Election Day, June 9.
According to Warner, this is also a good time for voters to make sure that their voter registration is up to date and accurate. Citizens who wish to register to vote or who need to update their current registration can do so online anytime at GoVoteWV.com. The last day to register to vote to participate in the June 9 Primary Election is now May 19.
During West Virginia's state of emergency, every registered voter is eligible to vote absentee by a mail-in ballot.
According to Warner, there are three steps for voting absentee by mail-in ballot in West Virginia:
1. The voter submits an absentee ballot application to their county clerk
2. Once approved, the county clerk will mail a postage prepaid absentee ballot with instructions and materials to the voter
3. The voter marks the absentee ballot according to the instructions and places it in the mail to be postmarked by Election Day.
"The Governor, Attorney General, county clerks and I have zealously worked together within state law to balance health concerns with the ease of voting," Warner said. "We have determined that the absentee voting process is the safest method. By sending an absentee application to all registered voters, it encourages voters to participate in the election in the safest manner possible without having to leave their house. Your ballot box is as close as your mailbox.”
The statewide mailing of absentee voting applications will give every eligible voter the chance to vote "while protecting the health of voters, county clerks’ staff members, election workers, and the general public, while maximizing participation in the May 12 Primary Election," Warner said in a previous release.
His office will reimburse the cost of the mailings to county clerks to reduce the financial burden on county budgets.
The Secretary of State and county clerks recommend that voters return their applications as soon as possible. This will help county clerks and their staff process the applications and place absentee ballots in the mail in a timely manner. When voters receive their absentee ballot, it is also recommended that they return the ballot in a reasonable time to help facilitate the administration of the election and speed up the tabulation process after the election.
Warner reminds West Virginians that there are only two trusted sources for election information – the WV Secretary of State's Office and your county clerk. Voters with questions or concerns can contact the Secretary of State’s Office at 304-558-6000 or by sending a message to Elections@wvsos.gov. To find your county clerk's contact information, visit the directory at GoVoteWV.com.