Voters urged to use absentee ballots for primary election

Editor’s note: On Wednesday, April 1, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice announced the state’s primary election would not be held on May 12, but would be delayed until June 9. The story has been edited to include that information.

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by Kate Shunney

Morgan County Clerk Kimberly Nickles has said her office is preparing to provide a large number of absentee ballots to county voters as West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner urges state residents to use absentee voting for the state’s primary, which has been delayed until June 9.

Residents who are not yet registered to vote have until April 21 to do so on the Secretary of State’s website or in the County Clerk’s office.

Nickles said clerks from around the state met with Warner on Wednesday to get updates on how to move ahead with the state primary election amid widespread closures and social distancing measures.

Nickles ordered 8,500 additional absentee ballots in preparation for a statewide push by Warner to supply them to voters. The county previously had ordered just 100 paper ballots to fulfill the usual number of ballot requests.

Normally, voters would have to provide a reason or “excuse” for requesting the mailed ballot. That rule has been lifted. Voters can now request an absentee ballot with no excuse.

Under guidance from the Secretary of State last week, the Morgan County Clerk chose a mass mailing vendor who will send an absentee ballot application to every registered voter on Morgan County’s voter registration rolls.

Applications will be handled locally, with County Clerk staff verifying voter registration information and determining which party ballot to send to voters.

Voters registered with no party affiliation will have to specify which party’s primary ballot they want to receive.

Nickles said her office will then mail out absentee ballots to qualified voters.

An absentee ballot application previously was May 6. That date may change with the postponement of the primary election.

Ballots must be returned to the County Clerk’s office by Election Day.

The Morgan County Clerk can be reached at 77 Fairfax Street, Room 102, Berkeley Springs, WV 25411. The clerk’s fax number is 304-258-8545. The clerk’s office can be reached by phone at 304-258-8547.

In-person voting

Morgan County voters cast their ballots using touch screen machines in 13 precincts around the county. Early voting takes place for ten days before the official primary in the County Clerk’s office in the courthouse.

Multiple touch screen voting machines are normally set up in the Clerk’s office for Early Voting. Nickles said there has been no guidance yet about how her office will handle in-person early voting if social distancing measures or courthouse restrictions are still in place on June 9.

Right now, the public can only enter courthouse offices by appointment in order to reduce in-person interactions.

Poll workers needed

The county is seeking younger people who are interested in becoming poll workers for the primary election. Traditionally the county’s poll workers tend to be older. Public health guidelines currently urge all people, but especially older citizens, to minimize their contact with others. That would apply to working polls on Election Day.

Morgan County pays poll workers $150 per day and $35 for training time.

Nickles said anyone interested in getting the poll worker training, which can partially be completed remotely, should contact the Clerk’s office.

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