Deadline to request an absentee ballot is today
CHARLESTON — With less than a week until Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 3, voters wishing to vote by absentee ballot need to get their applications into the hands of county clerks today.
West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner gave the first of several daily election briefings Tuesday morning through the office’s Facebook and YouTube accounts.
“I want everybody to know that we’re going to be conducting this election safely, sensibly and responsibly,” Warner said.
According to the Manual for Election of Officials of West Virginia, a guide produced by the Secretary of State’s Office, county clerks can only accept absentee ballot applications between the 84th and sixth day before the election. The application period for absentee ballot requests opened on Aug. 11, with applications available at county clerk offices and downloadable applications at GoVoteWV.com.
“You can still pick one up, download it and stick it in the mail, but it has to be in the clerk’s hands by (today), so mail is not a reliable system in that case,” Warner said.
According to state code, absentee ballot applications received after today, even if postmarked by Oct. 28, cannot be accepted by county clerks. Voters wishing to vote by absentee ballot can still go to their local county clerk’s office to fill out and turn in an application. Voters also have the option of going to GoVoteWV.com and filling out an online absentee ballot application.
“If you’ve waited this long to request it, I highly suggest you use the electronic portal,” Warner said. “It automatically goes to your county clerk, and they’ll be sending you the ballot the next day.”
Since March, voters have been able to cite the COVID-19 pandemic as a valid medical excuse to request an absentee ballot. All voters prior to the June 9 primary were mailed an absentee ballot application. Some counties mailed applications again for the general election, but the Secretary of State’s Office chose to create an online portal instead.
As of Tuesday, 149,115 voters had requested absentee ballots, with 64,559 requesting them through the online portal at GoVoteWV.com. Of those, 114,059 have already cast their absentee ballots in the 2020 general election, representing 77.2 percent of the total absentee ballots requested. Only 85.7 percent of voters who requested an absentee ballot during the June 9 primary actually cast a ballot.
According to the Secretary of State’s Office, 126,147 votes have been cast since the start of early voting last Wednesday. Combined with the absentee ballots cast, 240,206 voters have cast ballots for the election. Voter turnout so far is 18.9 percent, which is more than half of the 449,077 votes cast in the June 9 primary and one-third of the 732,362 votes cast in the 2016 presidential election.
The last day for early voting is Saturday. Voters can go to their county courthouse or designated satellite early voting station during business hours Wednesday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.
“My message to you is if you want to be a part of this election, you have one week to decide how you’re going to vote, pick one of those options, then go execute,” Warner said.
The Secretary of State’s Office and county clerks have been working together to make sure in-person voting is safe during the pandemic. Voters are spaced out six feet for social distancing, handed pens to use with touchscreen voting machines and required to wear masks. Poll workers are also wearing face masks and face shields, keeping voting machines clean and disinfected and making sure voters have access to hand sanitizer.
Warner also said state elections are secure from outside threats, such as foreign interference. So far, Warner said, there have been no instances of any interference with people casting their votes.
“The election has been going extremely well here,” Warner said. “There (is) no suppression of votes. Besides an occasional complaint or two, there’s no indication of significant complaints of fraud.”