by Kate Shunney
Morgan County’s election officials said Monday that 715 absentee ballots have already been returned to them during this year’s unusual primary election cycle.
County voters last month received an absentee ballot application in the mail, whether they had called to request one or not.
Joyce Spring of the County Clerk’s office said her office has so far sent out 2,430 paper ballots to voters who requested them. During a normal election year, the office receives fewer than 100 requests for an absentee ballot.
The state is urging voters to use the paper ballots as a way to reduce social contact amid public health concerns about the coronavirus.
The Morgan County Clerk was allowed to start mailing ballots out on April 24 – more than a month ahead of official early voting in the primary election.
Early voting begins on May 27 and runs through June 6, with primary election day set for June 9. The primary was originally to be held May 12.
Early voting is typically held in the Morgan County Courthouse. While the courthouse is still closed to the public, county officials are expected to discuss the process for reopening it at a County Commission today, May 6.
Under the new election cycle, voters have until Tuesday, May 19 to register to vote in the primary or to change information on their registration.
Absentee ballots can be requested until June 3. Marked ballots have to be postmarked by June 9 in order to be counted. They have to be in the clerk’s office by June 15, when election canvassing begins.
Voting will still take place in the county’s 13 precincts on Tuesday, June 9 on Election Day.
Spring said her office has made and received lots of phone calls to clarify the ballot process.
Applications for an absentee ballot can be mailed, scanned and emailed or dropped off at the Morgan County Courthouse by June 3. There is a locked box outside the front door during business hours for ballot applications. Spring said her office checks the box hourly.
Voters who are registered with no party affiliation should specify which party ballot they are requesting. All voters will be given the non-partisan ballot, on which they will vote for members of the Morgan County School Board, plus judges for Magistrate Court and Circuit Court.
Marked ballots are returned to the County Clerk’s office in a sealed envelope marked with the voter’s precinct on the outside. County election officials will open and enter the votes into the county’s electronic voting machines by precinct, as they do every election. Votes are entered in the presence of one Democrat and one Republican poll worker for fairness.
The clerk’s office encourages voters with questions about the ballots to call 304-258-8547 for more information.
More details about the state’s election process can also be found on the West Virginia Secretary of State’s website or by calling their office at 304-558-6000.