By Brittany WestfallWVSOS Elections Division DirectorOffice of West Virginia Secretary of State
Planning for a statewide election starts several months before voters begin casting their ballots. The West Virginia Secretary of State's Office has been working with our county clerks to update voter registration lists; assisting counties with the purchasing of updated technology and voting systems; providing training to clerks and their staff; and working with the legislature to eliminate barriers to the ballot box for certain groups of voters.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created some additional and unique challenges in order for us to protect voters and election workers alike. The health and safety of our voters and election workers is our primary goal. We don't want anyone to decide not to vote because they are concerned for their own safety.
Over the last two weeks, we've also worked with our 55 county clerks to ensure that all 1.2 million registered voters receive an Absentee Ballot Application. Voters should know that voting by absentee is an option for anyone concerned over the pandemic as no one knows what the status of the virus will be by June 9. Secretary Warner requested and received funding to allow our county clerks to mail an application to every voter -- not to insist on them voting by absentee ballot, but in an effort to educate voters on the absentee ballot option if they choose to do so.
Voting in-person is scheduled for the 10-day early voting period from May 27 to June 6. Voting in-person will also be available on Election Day, June 9, from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. West Virginia currently has 1,723 voting precincts that require more than 9,000 election workers statewide.
New this year, voters with disabilities will be able to join overseas and military voters to cast their ballots electronically. I am proud to say that West Virginia is the first in the nation to offer a statewide solution that allows voters with certain physical disabilities the option to cast and submit a ballot electronically without assistance. The option begins the same day absentee ballots start going in the mail, Friday, April 24, and is provided through the Democracy Live online platform.
I want to reassure every voter, whether you vote electronically, by an absentee ballot or in-person at your local precinct, that West Virginia's county clerks are prepared for the June 9 Primary Election. There are only two trusted sources for election information - your county clerk and the WV Secretary of State's Office. For additional information about the upcoming June 9 Primary Election, please visit GoVoteWV.com.
Finally, I want to remind voters that the Secretary of State's Office is counting on every citizen to help us deter and prevent voter fraud. If you see something that doesn't seem right, please say something. You can report possible illegal election activities to our toll-free Election Fraud Tip Line at 1-877-FRAUD-WV.
Brittany Westfall is the Elections Division Director for West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner. She is a graduate of Marshall University.