BUCKHANNON — West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner explained this year’s voting options and process during the Town Hall meeting hosted by the Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce via teleconference Monday.
To date, Warner reported that 231,000 voters have requested an absentee ballot for the West Virginia Primary Election this year. He compared the statistic to the 2016 election, in which a total of about 500,000 West Virginians voted, and mentioned that this number already accounts for 40 percent of the 2016 voters. He also reported that 222,000 ballots have been sent out to voters and 107,000 of those ballots have already been returned to County Clerks. Warner asked those voting via absentee ballot to make sure to read the directions to know how to fill it out correctly.
Another option still available is to vote traditionally in person. Early voting is from May 27 to June 6 and the official Election Day is June 9.
Those who wish to apply for an absentee ballot as a backup plan, but then decide to vote in person, may do so too. Warner informed those voters to bring the ballot they received in the mail with them to the precinct and the clerk will void the ballot, then give the voter a new ballot. Warner mentioned, “If you don’t bring that ballot with you but you were sent one, then you will be given a provisional ballot, and I don’t think any of us like someone else making the decision as to whether your vote counts or not. That’s why I emphasize that if you get a ballot and you change your mind and decide to vote in person, take it with you.”
Warner assured that he wants those who wish to vote at the polls in person to feel comfortable in doing so. He explained that they are following the guidelines and recommendations set by state health officials and the CDC to make sure all the health regulations are met. Hand sanitizer, masks, face shields and gloves will be provided, but those who want to bring their own gloves, masks, pencils or stylus are encouraged. There will be social distancing marks on the floor to assure everyone stays six feet apart and each polling place will have a limited capacity, so everyone feels comfortable.
The last day to register, change parties or change an address is May 19 by 4 p.m.
Warner then explained the process from the County Clerk’s side. The clerks enter the data from the voter’s application three times: once when the clerk receives the voter’s application, once when the clerk sends the ballot out to the voter, and finally when the ballot comes back to the clerk. This is done so the voter can track the ballot process. Warner asks the voter to keep in mind that this is a long process. The Secretary of State also mentioned the applications must be received by the clerk, not just postmarked, by June 3.
More information for local guidance can be found on the Upshur County Clerk’s website at http://www.upshurcounty.org/government/county_clerk.php or the Secretary of State website at govotewv.com.
Warner also encouraged all voters that if they see anything suspicious that may look like voting fraud to report it, especially with so many absentee ballots in circulation. Call 1-877-FRAUDWV or 1-877-372-8298. Warner explained he formed a Taskforce with the United States Attorney Office, WV State Police and FBI to avoid any voter fraud. If you see something, say something.
Warner also reminded voters to research the issues and candidates before voting. He explained, “West Virginia has more options to vote than any other state. This is a very important election, especially with regards to the Supreme Court races. Three of the five Supreme Court races will be decided on June 9. There is no runoff or no general election.”
Lastly, Warner explained that a Continuity of Operations plan is set in place for any emergency situation, such as an active shooter, chemical situation, electrical issues or cyber security attacks. All precincts are prepared, he assured. He even mentioned that West Virginia took the lead in planning and other states are using the state’s plan in place.