2016-11-02 / Front Page

Early voting heavy as Election Day approaches

by Kate Shunney

Morgan County voters have been filling the County Clerk’s office for the last week, waiting their turn to cast ballots during early voting in the 2016 presidential election.

The clerk’s office in the Morgan County Courthouse has five voting machines operating during business hours through this Saturday, November 5.

While there has been a steady stream of voters since early voting began, wait times have not been an issue, according to poll workers. Clerk Kim Johnson- Nickles said voters haven’t had to wait more than 15 minutes at the most for a turn at the voting machines.

As of Tuesday morning, 1,392 ballots had been cast in early voting. That means 10.6% of registered voters had already had their say at the polls.

Morgan County has 13,096 registered voters eligible to make their pick of officials from the U.S. President down to Morgan County elected offices. Voter rolls have grown by 450 voters since the May 2016 primary.

Of registered voters, 5,636 (43%) are Republicans and 3,084 (23.5%) are registered Democrats. Voters with no party affiliation number at 3,950 (30.2%) and the remaining voters are registered as Mountain Party members (62), Independents (284) and “other” (80).

Voting on Election Day will take place at 13 precincts around Morgan County. Polls are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, November 8.

County races, Brunch Bill

On the ballot are uncontested races for local offices.

Republican Ken Reed is seeking a sixyear term as County Commissioner with no challenger facing him. Reed will fill an office that will be left vacant when Commission President Brad Close ends his term in December.

Republican K.C. Bohrer is unchallenged in his campaign to become Sheriff of Morgan County. He will take the office currently held by Vince Shambaugh, who is prohibited from a third term as Sheriff.

Republican Melanie Shambaugh is the only candidate on the ballot for Circuit Clerk, seeking to replace Kim Hanback, who did not run for re-election.

Republican Kim Johnson- Nickles is seeking the office of County Clerk with no opponents on the ballot.

Also running for local office are Republican incumbents Assessor Ronnie McIntire and Prosecuting Attorney Debra McLaughlin.

Local voters will also weigh in on a ballot measure about the so-called “Brunch Bill.”

The measure would allow restaurants to serve alcoholic beverages at 10 a.m. on Sundays, rather than waiting until 1 p.m. under the state’s current law. Private clubs, licensed private wine establishments and retail dealers could also sell “non-intoxicating beer,” wine and alcoholic liquor for on-premise consumption if the bill passes. Mini-distilleries and farm wineries could also give out samples starting at 10 a.m. under the rule.

The West Virginia Legislature gave counties the power to settle that question themselves during last winter’s session.

District races

Local voters will select representatives to the West Virginia House of Delegates in two districts – the 58th, which includes part of eastern Morgan County and Berkeley County, and the 59th, which covers Morgan and Hampshire counties.

Delegate Saira Blair (RBerkeley) of Martinsburg is seeking re-election to her seat representing the 58th district in the Legislature. Blair was elected to her first term in 2014 at the age of 18.

Opposing Blair in her run for re-election is Democrat Cat Webster of Hedgesville, a political newcomer running on the platform of West Virginia legalizing marijuana in some form.

Delegate Daryl Cowles (RMorgan) is running unopposed to keep his seat representing the 59th district in the West Virginia Legislature. Cowles, a contractor from Berkeley Springs, is the House Majority Leader. Cowles was first elected to the House in 2006. Cowles was recently hired as the county’s Economic Development director.

State Senator Craig Blair (RBerkeley), a Martinsburg businessman, is seeking re-election to his post in the Legislature, representing the 15th senatorial district. Hedgesville Democrat, political newcomer Brad Noll, is running against Blair.

State races

Voters will also pick a governor from a field of five candidates. Greenbrier resort owner Jim Justice is the Democratic candidate seeking the office, facing businessman Republican Bill Cole who is West Virginia Senate president. Mountain Party candidate Charlotte Pritt is seeking the Governor’s seat, as is Libertarian candidate David Moran and Constitution Party candidate Phil Hudok.

Congressional race

Morgan County voters will also elect a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for the second Congressional district, which includes Morgan County. One-term Congressman Republican Alex Mooney is seeking re-election to his seat as challenger Democrat Mark Hunt of Charleston tries to take the post.

Five choices for President

Mountain State voters have five candidates to choose from in the race for U.S. President. Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton face off at the top of the ticket, followed by Libertarian Gary Johnson of New Mexico, Mountain Party nominee Jill Stein of Massachusetts and Constitution Party candidate Darrell Castle of Tennessee.

Locally, support for Trump is the most visible of all presidential candidates. He is expected to win West Virginia by a wide margin, as voters have a perception that Clinton is anti-coal.

West Virginia voters will also pick a Secretary of State, State Auditor, State Treasurer, Commissioner of Agriculture and Attorney General on November 8.

Election night

Election night results will be available at the County Clerk’s office next Tuesday night and will be reported on The Morgan Messenger website and social media.

Due to print deadlines on election night, preliminary election results will not be printed in the November 9 print edition of The Messenger, but will appear in the November 16 issue after the vote has been canvassed.

The Morgan County Commission will canvass the ballots on Monday, November 14 and certify the results of the election on Wednesday, November 16.

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