The 2020 West Virginia primary election has turned out much differently than Jackson County Clerk Cheryl Bright could ever have predicted.
The date of the election was changed from May 12 to June 9, and for the first time in history absentee ballots were allowed for all registered voters.
“This has certainly been unique,” Bright said. “We’ve mailed cards to every registered voter offering them the opportunity to request an absentee ballot. The cards mention COVID-19 which is what is driving this change in voting procedures.”
The county has over 19,000 registered voters. Bright said her office has received over 4,300 requests for absentee ballots.
“It’s a time-consuming process to get these ballots out,” she said. “We got overwhelmed with requests at the beginning. We’ve worked longer hours and come in on weekends to get caught up.”
Once the cards requesting the absentee ballots reach her office, Bright and her staff must verify the information, including address to see if it matches the information in the database. Then that information must be logged into the statewide voter registration system.
“After that we have to log in the date we mailed out the ballot and the date it was returned,” Bright explained.
A few of the cards received have issues that need addressed.
“A few won’t have the card signed or the voter has asked for a ballot from the party they’re not registered for,” Bright said. “People sometimes get primary and general elections confused. In the primary, you can only vote on the ballot for your registered party.”
Those voters registered as independent can request a ballot from either party. They can also ask for just the non-partisan ballot which only contains the local levies, the Board of Education, and any races for judges, including magistrate and Supreme Court. Voters living in Ravenswood would receive any city related ballot as well.
Anyone who registers to vote for the first time in the county can request an absentee ballot by contacting the clerk’s office or downloading an application from the West Virginia Secretary of State’s website.
Bright says she understands concerns regarding the process. When the ballots are received by her office, they are locked away securely.
“I know this is different, but it comes down to trust,” she said. “The voters have to trust my office, but we also have to trust the voter. I can promise that the integrity of the voting process will be maintained in this county.”
Although absentee ballot is an option for all voters, normal voting procedures will be followed on the June 9 election date. Early voting will be offered from May 27 through June 6.
“We have confirmed that our two early voting locations, the Ravenswood Library and the Jackson County courthouse will be available this year,” Bright said.
On election day, precincts will have safety precautions in place.
“Our poll workers will wear masks and gloves,” Bright stated. “We will have social distancing signs and will space the voting machines as far apart as we can. We’ll even be providing Q-tips to use to touch the machines. We just hope everyone will understand that the process may take a little longer than usual.”
The biggest concern Bright has with the election is poll workers.
“We normally have five per precinct,” she said. “We can go with as few as three but we really want to have the full component. I had to combine some precincts for this election due to lack of workers and other issues. If anyone is interested in working the polls, please contact my office.”
One further piece of advice Bright gives is directed to the voters coming to the polls on June 9.
“We strongly encourage voters to wear masks,” she said. “We can’t provide them but we hope people will take this precaution.”
For information about absentee ballots or any other election question, contact the county clerk at 304-373-2250 or the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office at sos.wv.gov.
• May 19 - last day to register to vote in primary
• June 3 - last day to request absentee ballot
• May 27-June 6 - Early voting (8:30-4:30 M-F, 9-5 Sat) at Ravenswood Library and Jackson County Courthouse
• June 9 - Primary Election, polls open from 6:30 am to 7:30 pm
Precincts 5 and 9 will vote at Ravenswood Middle School (precinct 4)
Precinct 13 will vote at Silverton Fire Department (precinct 10)