Some West Virginia legislators suggest a vote-by-mail primary election

Photo Credit: WSAZ News Staff
Photo Credit: WSAZ News Staff(WYMT)
Published: Apr. 22, 2020 at 2:13 PM EDT
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Democratic lawmakers in both the West Virginia Senate and House are calling on Gov. Jim Justice to declare the 2020 primary election vote-by-mail only.

"We must take every commonsense precaution to ensure the certainty and safety of our upcoming primary election," said Senator Doug Facemire (D-Braxton). "We must follow the instructions of our public health professionals and use social distancing to keep the virus from spreading or rebounding."

"Utah, Washington, Hawaii, Oregon, and Colorado already have had numerous vote-by-mail elections with no voter fraud issues," explained Delegate Evan Hansen (D-Monongalia). "Most of these states rank near the top in voter turnout and have time-tested procedures that West Virginia can copy to ensure the security of every vote. It's simple and secure. Every voter gets a secure ballot in the mail and sends it back with a postmark by the date of the election. There is even federal money available to help with the costs."

Lawmakers mentioned in just the past few days, West Virginia's County Clerks asked Governor Justice to endorse a vote-by-mail primary election for everyone's health and safety.

Legislators pointed out that county poll workers mostly are at-risk seniors. They say voters should not be forced to crowd into often tight locations or wait in large lines.

Anyone who touches a surface touched by someone who is COVID-19 positive risks infection.

Lawmakers say counties will be forced to reduce the number of voting locations, in some counties by as much as 90%, which will result in overcrowded polling locations.

Harrison County Clerk Susan Thomas announced a reduction in the number of voting locations from 67 to 7. "It will be inconvenient and crowded, but we just don't have enough poll workers who can risk getting the virus," she said.

"You can't say you're putting the safety of the public first, then offer voters overcrowded polling places or require them to mail an application for a ballot. We're sending mixed messages," said Delegate Andrew Robinson (D-Kanawha).

A similar move was approved in a neighboring state.

As Ohio responded to the COVID-19 outbreak, Gov. DeWine and Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton ordered in-person polling locations closed on Tuesday, March 17, 2020.

As a result, the Ohio General Assembly extended the 2020 Ohio primary election until Tuesday, April 28, 2020, and converted to a vote-by-mail election only.