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Early voting starts Wednesday in West Virginia

WHEELING — Early voting for the June 9 primary election in West Virginia starts Wednesday across the state, though there are signs both voters and poll workers may be reluctant to come to the polls this election season.

Early voting starts just as election officials continue to process a high number of absentee ballots coming from voters wishing to vote by mail from home amid coronavirus concerns. There also have been many poll workers calling off from working the primary election.

Early voting starts Wednesday at local courthouses and extends through Saturday, June 6. Early polls will be open during normal business hours, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. There is no voting on Sunday.

After West Virginia’s previously scheduled May 12 election was postponed, all registered voters in the state were mailed absentee ballot applications so they would not have to vote in person.

Local election officials report many voters are taking advantage of the opportunity.

“We’re busy, busy, busy,” Marshall County Clerk Jan Pest said. “We are still receiving (absentee) ballots everyday, and people are still requesting them.”

While many voters are casting absentee ballots, physical polling locations still will be open for the June 9 election. Poll workers are needed more than ever as many are calling off for the election.

“We are hunting poll workers as we speak,” Pest said. “There are precincts that are going to be short. We may put four poll workers at a precinct instead of five.”

Most Marshall County voters will vote at school buildings for this election. Pest said the decision to move some smaller precincts into school locations was necessary as the schools are equipped with the tools and manpower to properly disinfect areas used during the election, while churches and community centers are not.

The state is allowing counties to consolidate precincts at one polling location, and is also permitting poll workers at the same location to assist each other if needed.

Marshall County will house its 37 voting precincts within 11 different voting locations. All will be in schools, except for one at St. Jude Hall in Glen Dale.

Those wishing to be poll workers in Marshall County are paid $150 for working an Election Day shift that begins at 5:30 a.m., and lasts until at least 8 p.m. They will also receive an additional $50 for attending a necessary poll worker training session prior to the election.

The first poll worker training session takes place this Tuesday, with similar sessions set to take place each day through Friday, Pest said. She will have an additional session sometime during the week before the election for those not able to attend the earlier sessions.

Ohio County also is in need of poll workers for the upcoming June 9 primary election, Commission President Tim McCormick said.

As in Marshall County, they will receive up to $200, and will be supplied with masks, hand sanitizer and gloves for the day, according to McCormick.

In Wetzel County, a number of poll workers called earlier this month to say they wouldn’t be working Election Day, said County Clerk Carol Haught.

“We’re good on poll workers now, but we had a slew call off,” she said. “I got them filled up earlier this week, so we’re good to go.”

Her office now is focusing on processing absentee ballots from people not wanting to go to the polls, as well as requests for absentee ballots.

She reported that as of May 19, Wetzel County had received 2,994 absentee ballot requests, and has had 1,470 ballots returned.

Haught — who has served as county clerk since 1999 — believes this is a sign fewer people will early vote, but that overall turnout for the June 9 election will be higher.

“I think we’re going to have a pretty good turnout,” she said. “I’ve worked with a lot of elections, but by far this is the most unique one.”

jking@theintelligencer.net

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