By Mac WarnerWest Virginia Secretary of State
By Mac WarnerWVSOS West Virginia Secretary of State
West Virginia's May 10th Primary Election is set to begin as county election officials prepare for the start of absentee voting tomorrow.
For more than a century, the vast majority of West Virginia voters have participated by voting in person on Election Day and, in recent years, during the 10-day early voting period. For those who cannot vote in person at all, they can apply for and submit an absentee-by-mail ballot.
Starting on March 25th, all 55 county clerks will start fulfilling accepted applications by mailing absentee ballots to eligible absentee voters. With ballots landing in mailboxes as soon as next week, I want to inform voters of what to expect when voting this spring.
Most notably, the 2020 Census population survey required the Legislature to redistrict the state’s political boundaries. The Legislature completed the process in late fall of 2021, and the district boundaries for Congressional, House of Delegates, and State Senate all changed. In many counties, the county commissions redistricted county magisterial boundaries and precincts.
For voters, if the location of your in-person polling place changed as a result of redistricting, you will receive notice in the mail from your county clerk before the election. The notice will include the address of your new polling place. If you do not receive a letter or notice, you vote in the same location as in past elections.
I want to encourage West Virginians to check out the new interactive map to identify their new political boundaries. Powered by GIS mapping technology, voters simply enter their home address and can pinpoint their exact precinct and House, Senate, Congressional, and Magisterial Districts. Voters can access the online map by visiting GoVoteWV.com.
The several changes to political boundaries were caused primarily by West Virginia’s changes in population. As a result, we lost one seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Legislature also had to balance population equality while creating 100 single-member House Districts, changing from the multi-member districts we’ve had for decades. While some counties were impacted by redistricting more than others, voters can expect the same processes as before. The main changes some voters can expect are different polling locations and political districts on the ballot.
Voters whose polling locations changed can expect their notice of the new polling place in the weeks leading up to election day. County clerks are checking and double-checking the accuracy of hundreds of thousands of records changed by redistricting. While some counties are already complete, others are working around the clock to complete the redistricting process and get notices in the mail.
If you will turn 18-years-old by or before November 8, 2022, you are eligible to register and vote in the May Primary. You can register online at GoVoteWV.com, or contact my office or your county clerk for a paper voter registration application. The deadline to register or update a voter registration is April 19, 2022.
Also at GoVoteWV.com, you can access a calendar showing important election dates and deadlines. As always, you can call my office or your local county clerk for more information or assistance.
The May Primary also marks the first opportunity for voters to utilize our newest election security campaign known as the “See Something, Text Something!” initiative. Voters and election officials are the first line of defense against election fraud, and now you can report suspicious activity and apparent improprieties quickly and discretely without fear of retribution. Voters can simply text “WV” to 45995, click on the link in the response, and follow the simple instructions.
West Virginia's 2020 election turnout rate was the second-highest in state history. An independent study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) placed voters’ confidence in West Virginia's election results in the top-ten nationwide. Stay tuned for more information from my office as the election draws near to be informed with the latest news. And, importantly, support and be patient with your county clerks and their staff as they prepare for the Primary Election. Their jobs are significantly more difficult with completing redistricting on top of holding the best elections in the nation. As always, we will have another successful, fair, and secure election thanks in large part to the clerks’ tireless effort.