By Jennifer GardnerDeputy Press SecretaryWest Virginia Secretary of State
When I turn 25-years-old on May 25, nothing about my birthday will feel normal. I will not see family or spend the evening with friends at my favorite restaurant, and I probably won’t blow out candles to reduce the spread of germs. However, I will be just days away from voting in my second presidential primary election, which, for me, is just as exciting.
Just like our new socially distant celebrations, I know voting in this election will feel anything but standard. However, I will not sacrifice my right to vote out of fear of the abnormal. Whether I vote from the safety and comfort of my own home using the expanded absentee process or choose to exercise my right to vote in person (armed with hand sanitizer and a mask, of course), I will make my vote count – no different than before.
My generation is known for its adaptability. We’ve embraced evolving technology and experienced a struggling economy. We’re young, but we’re flexible. And yet, the pandemic uprooted every bit of what we know as reality. It made simple, everyday tasks, like going to the grocery store, challenging. It took away our time with friends and family and replaced it with virtual conference calls and drive-by parades.
We know that some parts of life may never go back to the way they were. This election is, again, our call to adapt.
There have been times during this pandemic when reporters and officials have questioned how the coronavirus will affect voter turnout. However, I am here to tell you that this terrifying illness is not an excuse to skip this election. Educate yourself now and you have options. In fact, as a state, West Virginia offers the most ways to vote in the nation – Election Day, Early Voting, absentee-by-mail, and electronic absentee for some voters.
As you should in any election, do your diligence. Educate and set reminders for yourself on the important dates and information needed to cast your vote. Check your registration to ensure it is active and accurate. Confirm that you have the proper identification before heading to the polls or voting in your first election by absentee. View your sample ballot online to ensure you are educated on the offices and candidates before casting your vote. If you have questions or concerns about the voting process, contact your county clerk. Pro-tip: you can find most of this election information at GoVoteWV.com.
We know that voting in person, whether during Early Voting or on Election Day, will feel very different than before. In addition to the changes in dates, polling locations, and the requirements of new health and safety guidelines, patience will be especially important during this election. While it may not feel ordinary, these precautions should make you feel confident and safe when you head to the polls, just as it is your right to do so.
The deadline to register to vote or update your registration has passed, but you have until June 3 to request an absentee ballot. If you request a ballot but then choose to vote in-person, be sure to take that absentee ballot with you for the poll worker to spoil.
Life may never return to “normal,” but democracy goes on. Let’s have a safe, fair, and free primary election on June 9.
Jennifer Gardner serves as Deputy Press Secretary for Secretary of State Mac Warner. She is a graduate of Parkersburg High School and West Virginia University, and a former features writer for the Charleston Gazette-Mail.