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High Early Voting Numbers Possibly Attributable to Teacher Strike

Kara Lofton
West Virginia Public Broadcasting
Members of the Kanawha County voter registration crew wheel out "blue totes" filled with ballots and other election supplies to be distributed to polling centers before today's primary.

This legislative session, thousands of teachers and other school employees walked off the job and onto the grounds of the state capital to rally for better pay and benefits. Many have wondered how the nine-school-day strike might impact the coming elections.

Depending on who you ask, you’ll get some pretty different answers.

“I don’t think it had anything to do with the teacher’s strike at all,” said WV GOP chairwoman Melody Potter.

Democratic chairwoman, Belinda Biafore, had a different take.

“Everywhere I go, to these events and rallies, I see an overwhelming turnout, Biafore said. “There’s a lot of energy and I think the teachers pumped everyone up and got everyone motivated.”

More than 68,000 West Virginians cast ballots early this year, according to the Secretary of State’s office. That’s about 23,000 more than voted early in the 2014 midterm primary.

Biafore said she thinks that as West Virginians have become disenfranchised with the status quo politics, they’ve become more active. Meanwhile Potter points historical trends for the high turnout.

“What I have observed, historically, with early voting numbers during off year elections since 2002, if you go back and look at the numbers it has steadily and heavily increased,” said Potter. “I think that people are realizing that their voice is their vote and they want to do their part.”

When asked what impact, if any, the teacher’s strike would have on November elections, both women said it would be difficult to know until their field of candidates have been set, but urged West Virginians to get out and vote.

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