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Election Update: W.Va. voters urged to follow instructions with absentee ballots

Release from the W.Va. Secretary of State:

Charleston, W. Va. – West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner urges voters to closely follow absentee ballot instructions to ensure their votes count in the 2020 Primary Election.

The important message is shared as unprecedented numbers of West Virginians have already chosen to vote by absentee ballot in the upcoming election.

Due to COVID-19, those with health and safety concerns can request an absentee ballot by mail for the June 9 Primary Election.

Voters also have the option to cast their ballots in-person during early voting, from May 27 to June 6, and on Election Day, June 9, which is now recognized as a state holiday. 

To date, more than 115,000 voters have requested absentee ballots for the June 9 Primary, which is on pace to soon pass a quarter of the number of those who voted in the 2016 Primary. 

“Because so many are looking to vote absentee, I want to remind everyone to closely follow the instructions provided with the ballot,” Warner said. “It is easy to make mistakes on a paper ballot, such as circling a name instead of filling in the oval, or checking the box as instructed. If not filled out properly, that specific vote may not be counted as intended.” 

Warner also noted that those who vote absentee do not have the advantage of experienced poll workers who usually assist them at the voting precincts with instructions and answering questions. They will also not have access to ballot marking devices, which are located at many precincts and programmed to fill in the oval properly, eliminating improper and stray marks that can invalidate a vote. 

In previous West Virginia elections, less than 3% of those who participated voted absentee. The remaining 97% voted in-person. Because of the Coronavirus and the current State of Emergency, Warner worked with the state’s 55 county clerks to send all 1.2 million registered voters an application to vote by absentee ballot, if preferred by the voter.  

When voting by absentee ballot, Warner advises to: 

Read the instructions for each race. A ballot will be counted with an under-vote, but it is not OK to vote for more candidates than allowed. For example, if you are permitted to “Vote for Up to Two” in a particular race, then you can vote for zero, one or two candidates. Do not mark more than two (over-voting) or that race will not be counted on your ballot. 

Read the name of every candidate before you vote. Voters are encouraged to vote one race at a time. Read every name of each candidate running in that race, and then vote. 

Mark the ballot as instructed. Follow the directions on the ballot to mark your choice(s) for each office. 

Be sure to sign your return envelope. If you had assistance completing the ballot, be sure the person who helped signs in the appropriate place as well. 

Complete your ballot and mail it back in time.  For an absentee ballot to be counted, the envelope must be postmarked on or before June 9. County clerks encourage you to return your ballot as soon as possible. Early return will enable clerks to begin verifying signatures, dividing ballots according to precincts, and other administrative tasks that will speed up tallying votes on Election Day.  

Warner said to direct questions or concerns about absentee ballots to your county clerk. If you make a mistake and want to spoil that ballot, contact your county clerk. If you receive an absentee ballot and then decide to vote in person, bring that ballot to the poll so it can be accounted for and then “spoiled.”

Visit the “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQ) tab at GoVoteWV.co to find answers to common questions and for more information about absentee voting. “The very essence of democracy is casting a vote and having that vote count. It’s now up to each voter to follow the instructions properly, so their voice is heard,” Warner said. 

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