Turnout low in Belington

Less than 60 total votes were cast in Tuesday night’s Belington municipal election, in which one incumbent councilman was unseated.

In the only contested race, challenger James Lawrence narrowly defeated incumbent Jerry Phillips for the Ward I council seat, receiving 15 votes to Phillips’ 11.

Incumbent Councilman Marshall Reed from Ward II said it was a shame more voters did not turn out, even though many seats were unopposed in this election.

“I think more people did not come out to vote because there was only one contested race,” Reed said. “It’s terrible that there are not more concerned residents or those wanting to change or challenge those in office. I hope (the low voter turnout) is because they are satisfied with our work.”

Belington City Clerk Susan Bradley said about 300 voters usually turn out for the town’s municipal elections. Bradley also said there were no early or absentee voters.

With less than 60 residents casting their votes Tuesday, Belington came close to the minimum guidelines for towns to retain their municipality status, but is not in danger of losing its status.

West Virginia State Code Chapter 8, Article 35, Part 1 states, “Any municipality heretofore incorporated or which shall hereafter be incorporated and which has no substantial indebtedness, and which shall fail for one year to exercise its corporate powers and privileges, or which has not 20 qualified voters, or in which there were not 20 legal votes cast at its last election, or the population of which shall be reduced below 100 persons and so remain for six consecutive months, shall in either event have its charter or certificate of incorporation and all rights, powers and privileges so conferred upon such municipality forfeited.”

The exact number of registered voters within the city of Belington was not available. Debbie Kittle of the Barbour County Clerk’s Office said an accurate number could not be determined.

“A year ago, the county went from 21 to 16 precincts,” Kittle said. “The precincts include those living in the city and without, so pulling a report of precincts in the city would also have those not in the city. The results could be double the number that are actually Belington residents.”

In Belington uncontested’s races, incumbent Mayor Jody Haller received 55 votes; Marshall Reed, City Council Ward 2, received eight votes; William King, Ward III, earned seven votes; and Suzanna Skidmore, Ward IV, received 11 votes.

Bradley also said there were no early or absentee voters. Election results will be canvassed Monday.