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Historic levels of absentee voting ahead of West Virginia primary election

Baskets of absentee ballots in a county clerk's office about to be sent to West Virginians
Baskets of absentee ballots in a county clerk's office about to be sent to West Virginians(WHSV)
Published: Jun. 5, 2020 at 11:20 AM EDT
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Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, West Virginia's secretary of state says voters have cast absentee ballots in record numbers for the state's upcoming June 9 primary election.

In the start of April, West Virginia county clerk's offices

ahead of June's primary election for the gubernatorial race.

Essentially, every voter registered in the state was sent an absentee ballot application to their registered address.

State leaders encouraged all voters to fill out the applications and submit them to their county clerk in order to receive an absentee ballot for the election, and then mark the ballot according to state instructions by election day.

And voters responded. According to Secretary of State Mac Warner, as of the close of business on June 4, a total of 262,441 West Virginia voters had applied for an absentee ballot, which is around 20% of voters in the state.

By the end of June 4, of those, 191,346 had already returned their completed ballots, making up about 15.6% of the state's registered voters.

In the last presidential primary in the state, fewer than 6,700 registered voters participated by absentee ballot.

Warner says the massive increase shows their public education strategy to inform voters about their vote-by-mail options proved successful.

"West Virginia offers voters more options to cast a ballot than any other state in the nation," Warner said. "Working with our county clerks, we are making sure that every option is safe and secure."

Locally, here are what the absentee ballot numbers look like:

  • Grant County — 22.7% of registered voters requested an absentee ballot | 17.3% of registered voters have returned an absentee ballot
  • Hardy County — 25% of registered voters requested an absentee ballot | 19.7% of registered voters have returned an absentee ballot
  • Pendleton County — 27.5% of registered voters requested an absentee ballot | 22% of registered voters have returned an absentee ballot

The deadline to request an absentee ballot was Wednesday, June 3.

Warner said the focus now shifts to encouraging absentee voters to return their ballots.

Ballots may be hand-delivered to county clerks by Monday, June 8, or mailed with a postmark by June 9. To be counted, absentee ballots have to be received by the county clerk by start of canvass on June 15.

Warner said his office and county clerks are working together to encourage voters who did not vote absentee to vote in-person during early voting, which ends at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 6, or in-person on Election Day, June 9.

You can find a list of early voting locations

.

"We want voters to know that casting a ballot in-person will be safe and secure," Warner said. "Counties have received guidance on how to disinfect polling locations, sanitize equipment, and properly run in-person voting. With state and federal health officials recommending social distancing, voters should anticipate lines that may appear long – though wait times should not be increased. With record numbers of people exercising absentee and early voting options, we do not anticipate long wait times at polls. We also recommend voters wear a mask to protect others if they choose to do so."

Many counties have specific public health and safety procedures for in-person voting. You can call your county clerk for more information. A county clerk directory is available

.

More info is at

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