It’s primary election day here in West Virginia and it’s unlike any election in modern history. Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, state officials delayed the state's May 12 primary and allowed all registered voters to request an absentee mail-in ballot. Per usual, voters also had the opportunity to vote early in person.
If you’re heading to the polls today to vote, here are a few frequently asked questions and answers.
What time do polls open?
Polls open at 6:30 a.m. You must vote at your assigned polling location. If you’re unsure of where you can vote in-person, you can find your polling place by going online to the Secretary of State’s website.
What time do polls close?
Polls close at 7:30 p.m.
What’s the deal with absentee ballots?
Absentee ballots must be postmarked by the end of the day today. You can also drop them off at your local county clerk’s office. Note: You don’t have to personally return your own absentee ballot, but no one person may deliver more than two voters' absentee ballots.
If you received an absentee ballot and want to vote in person instead, you’ll need to take the ballot you received in the mail with you to your polling place.
Are there risks to voting in person because of the coronavirus?
State voting officials say they have taken steps to ensure the safety of voters and poll workers. According to West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner, that includes disinfecting polling places and providing sanitation and personal protective equipment to local county clerks to give to poll workers.
“They're training the poll workers on how to properly cleanse between the different voters and are going to hand out everything from Q-tips, which is a way you can actually touch an electronic screen and cast your vote without actually touching the screen yourself, offering people gloves, that sort of thing,” Warner said in an interview with WVPB.
Speaking at the governor’s virtual daily press briefing Monday, Dr. Clay Marsh, the state’s coronavirus czar, said anyone going to vote should follow the safety guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That includes wearing a mask, staying six-feet away from others and washing your hands or using hand sanitizer often.
“If you should go out to vote tomorrow, wear your mask and keep your distance, as much as you possibly can,” Marsh said. “It's an incredibly important right and we want everybody to do it safely.”
What can you expect at the polls?
That will of course vary depending on where you’re voting, however some county clerks WVPB spoke to leading up to the election said they expect polls to be quiet.
That’s largely due to the expansion of absentee voting.
As of June 9, the Secretary of State’s office was reporting 262,362 people or 21.4 percent of registered voters — had requested absentee ballots and 210,749 people or 17.2 percent of registered voters had returned them.
A total of 1,229,520 West Virginians are registered and eligible to participate in the primary.
In an emailed press release Friday, the Secretary of State’s office urged voters heading to the polls to “be prepared to be patient” as extra safety measures may slow down voting.
Still have questions? Check out our pandemic voter guide.