By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor
During the past few weeks, all Americans have seen many aspects of their lives altered due to the coronavirus pandemic. It has been rather unsettling. Americans all share this feeling … and likewise, they are all being asked to share the responsibility of exercising caution and following the requests of government and healthcare experts to limit exposure to other people.
It is with those cautions in mind that West Virginia’s Secretary of State and all County Clerks prepare for the upcoming primary election on Tuesday, May 12th.
Harrison County Clerk Susan Thomas stated that she and other WV County Clerks recently participated on a conference call with the Secretary of State’s Office to discuss encouraging all voters to vote in that election and how best to do it safely for the good of all. Their goal is to handle this both safely and wisely so that voter participation does not suffer in the election.
Mrs. Thomas says that soon every voter currently registered will be receiving in the mail an absentee application.
“Our office is strongly urging every registered voter to fill these out and follow through with absentee voting during this primary,” Mrs. Thomas said. “One of the reasons voters can apply to vote absentee is that these individuals have a ‘health issue or medical reason that confines them to their home’. Now that Governor Justice’s executive order has declared a State of Emergency in our state due to the outbreak of COVID-19, all residents of the state are being told to stay at home unless it is absolutely necessary to obtain food, medical care, etc. Secretary of State Warner says that this executive order qualifies voters to check that box referring to home confinement as their reason for applying for absentee voting.”
Early voting is still to be held April 29th through May 9th and would help to cut down on Election Day crowds, but to ensure that voters don’t have any face-to-face contact with anyone who might unknowingly be a carrier of the virus, absentee voting would be the safest choice.
“Absentee voting is powerfully encouraged because it provides the opportunity to vote without posing any risks to voters … or our staff … of poll workers,” Mrs. Thomas continued. “There are so many unknowns about this virus and we don’t want anyone to be put at risk! While this will be more work for our office, we feel it is worth it if it keeps people healthy and thwarts the spread of the virus in our state.”
Thomas stated that close to 45,000 absentee applications will be mailed in Harrison County alone. However, there could be as many as 10,000 that may come back because individuals have either moved or perhaps did not change their physical address with the Clerk’s office after the 911 address change went into effect to facilitate more prompt responses for emergency services.
“For those registered voters who do not receive an absentee application in the mail soon and realize that they failed to change their mailing address with our office, this is a reminder that that needs to be done,” she added. “It’s a simple process and can be taken care of in a matter of just a few minutes. They can do it online at the Secretary of State’s website – sos.wv.gov, or if they still have their voter registration card, there is a place on the back of that card for change of address to return to us. OR, it can be changed at our office; however, due to the pandemic, since the public is not permitted in the Courthouse now (except for court appearances), they can simply call the County Clerk’s office at 304-624-8613.”
The absentee application that registered voters will receive in the mail will need to be filled out and returned to the County Clerk’s Office and received by May 6, 2020. It will require that you fill in your name and address and the reason you are applying for absentee voting; check the box for Primary Election and sign your name! It is that simple.
When these applications are received, the appropriate ballot will be mailed back to you. Ballots must be returned prior to Election Day (May 12, 2020).
The following choices will appear on the Primary Ballot – choices for: President of the United States, U.S. Senator, U.S. Congress (1st Congressional District); at the state level – Governor, Auditor, Treasurer, Commissioner of Agriculture, Attorney General, State Senator, House of Delegates, and State Supreme Court; and at the county level – Magistrate, County Commission, Board of Education, and Conservation District Supervisor. No levies will be on the Primary Ballot.
Be sure to vote – and make it risk-free by voting from home. Absentee voting provides that solution!
urging that instead of allowing in-person voting for early voting and primary election day, currently scheduled for May 12, 2020, that absentee ballots be distributed to all registered voters.