All Registered West Virginia Voters Can Cast Absentee Ballots In Primary Election Due To COVID-19

Mar 26, 2020

All registered voters will receive an absentee ballot application for the May 12 primary, according to the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office on Thursday. 

Staff for Mac Warner said clerks throughout the state will mail roughly 1.2 million applications for absentee ballots by the week of April 6, to those already registered to vote. 

There will still be in-person voting at the end of April and in May, despite a stay at home order from the governor on Monday, March 23.

But, due to that order and an earlier State of Emergency declaration, Warner says every registered voter in West Virginia can vote in the upcoming primary from home. 

West Virginians have until April 21 to register to vote. According to Director of Communications Mike Queen, county clerks can mail a ballot up to 48 hours after an application is processed. 

The secretary of state’s office will reimburse county clerks for the costs this will incur, using a combination of state funds and money from the federal Help America Vote Act.

Registered voters will have until May 6 to send their absentee ballot applications back to their county clerk’s office, either by mail, fax or scan-and-email. Queen said that includes taking a photo of the application from a cellular device and emailing the pictures to the county clerk.  

Once an application is received and approved, clerks will mail voters an absentee ballot. 

Voters must return absentee ballots to their county clerks with a postmark on or before May 12. Postage will be paid for on the ballots. 

The last day to register to vote for primary elections is April 21. Early, in-person voting is still scheduled from April 29 to May 9. In-person voting is scheduled to take place on May 12. 

Queen said Thursday the office doesn’t anticipate having to cancel or reschedule in-person options at this time, although he said county clerks are preparing to facilitate social distancing options. 

“We are purchasing hand sanitizers and cleaning supplies,” Queen said. “We’re also taking precautions for the health and safety of social distancing, not only for the poll workers but for the voters as well.”

For the 9,000 poll workers who staff West Virginia’s 1,723 precincts, Queen said his office estimates roughly 1,000 to 2,000 volunteers are senior citizens, who are more susceptible to the coronavirus. The secretary of state’s office is encouraging more low-risk people between the ages of 18 and 40 to apply.

Emily Allen is a Report for America corps member.