by KATE SHUNNEY
Morgan County voters have lined up daily at the county courthouse since last Wednesday, waiting for their turn to vote early in the County Clerk’s office.
Sometimes dozens of people stood on the steps, ramps and sidewalks leading to the front door of the courthouse as a security officer moved voters through at a steady pace.
Social distancing, capacity limits and high interest in this year’s election have meant voting lines extended outdoors regularly – a sight not seen during previous elections.
Just three voters are permitted in the County Clerk’s office at one time to use the touchscreen voting machines.
The 10-day early voting period continues through the end of the day this Saturday, October 31.
As of mid-day Monday, the County Clerk’s office said 1,123 local voters had cast a ballot in their office so far, with another five days to go before early voting closes.
Meanwhile, voters also continue to request and return paper absentee ballots, which can be mailed or dropped off in the County Clerk’s office.
Today, October 28, is the last day to request an absentee ballot for the General Election.
According to the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office, 1,570 Morgan County voters requested absentee ballots and of those, 1,223 have been returned to the Morgan County Clerk’s office.
As of the close of voter registration, Morgan County has 14,372 registered voters who can cast a ballot during this General Election. That figure is up 1,276 voters from the 2016 presidential election.
Absentee ballots and early voting combined, more than 2,300 county voters have already cast a ballot in this General Election – putting early turnout figures at more than 16% already, with roughly a week to go before polls close and marked ballots must be postmarked.
Election Day is Tuesday
Polls will open next Tuesday, November 3 for Election Day precinct voting in Morgan County at 6:30 a.m. and remain open until 7:30 p.m.
There are 13 precincts where residents can vote on touchscreen machines during polling hours on Election Day.
Local voters will see uncontested Republican candidates for four county offices on their ballots. County Commissioner Joel Tuttle is unchallenged in his re-election bid, as is Sheriff K.C. Bohrer. Prosecuting Attorney Daniel James is unopposed in seeking a full term in his post and Debbie Weaver has no challenge in her race to become the county’s next Assessor.
Morgan County voters have district-level races to decide.
Local voters will choose a member of the West Virginia State Senate to represent the 15th district senatorial in Charleston. That district includes Morgan County. Republican Craig Blair of Martinsburg is seeking another term in the State Senate. He is opposed by Mountain Party candidate Donald Kinnie of Bunker Hill.
Morgan County voters will cast votes for a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates – either representing the 58th delegate district or the 59th district.
Local voters who live in the western portion of the county will pick a delegate for the 58th district, which includes parts of Hampshire County. Republican George A. Miller of Berkeley Springs is facing off against Democrat Tom Harden of Berkeley Springs in this race. Miller beat out longtime delegate Daryl Cowles in the GOP primary in June.
Voters who live in the eastern portion of the county will see the 59th delegate district race on their ballot. Seeking the seat are Republican Ken Reed of Berkeley Springs, Mountain Party candidate Robert E. Smith of Martinsburg and unaffiliated candidate Patricia “Patch” Adams of Hedgesville. Reed is currently a Morgan County Commissioner.
State races include battles for the governor’s seat, Secretary of State, Attorney General, State Auditor, State Treasurer and Commissioner of Agriculture.
West Virginia voters in this section of the state will elect a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for the 2nd Congressional District. Republican incumbent Alex X. Mooney is looking for another term in Washington while Democrat Cathy Kunkel has campaigned hard to replace him in Congress.
West Virginia residents will decide whether to give Shelley Moore Capito another term in the U.S. Senate, or replace the Republican with Democrat Paula Jean Swearengin of Raleigh County, or with Libertarian David Moran of Preston County.
While presidential election years always draw high voter turnout, this year’s race for the White House has pushed historic numbers of voter registration and ballot requests around the country.
State voters will see four candidates on the ticket for U.S. President. Republican incumbent Donald Trump faces challenges from Democrat Joe Biden, Libertarian Jo Jorgensen and Mountain Party candidate Howie Hawkins.