After a thorough review of the June Primary Election, and considering current guidance from state and federal authorities and health officials, Secretary of State Mac Warner has announced the processes for voters to safely participate in the November General Election during the Covid-19 pandemic.
West Virginia election officials have resources available to provide safe and accessible options to voters, allowing each person to decide the safest method of voting under current law. In the 2020 General Election, all registered voters can again take advantage of robust in-person voting options, as well as the absentee-by-mail option.
Currently, West Virginia is under a "safer-at-home order" due to concerns over Covid-19. Governor Jim Justice's order recommends residents stay home except to engage in certain essential activities. Therefore, under current absentee laws that have been in place since 2001, all voters confined to their home during the in-person voting period because of Covid-19 concerns may apply to their county clerk for an absentee ballot. According to Warner, a voter simply needs to select "Illness, injury or other medical reason which keeps me confined" as the excuse for completing an absentee ballot application.
"West Virginia voters should never have to choose between their health and their right to vote," Warner said in a press release. "Let me be very clear. Any voter concerned about their health and safety because of Covid-19 will have the option to vote by absentee ballot."
Collaborating with the state's 55 county clerks over the past three weeks, the Secretary of State's office produced a 10-page summary report which details the planning, administration and voter participation in the 2020 Primary Election. Upon review, several processes and opportunities were identified to increase the efficiency and ease of administration, reduce voter confusion, and provide a more accessible and expedient manner to request a ballot. Read the report at https://sos.wv.gov/elections/Documents/WV%202020%20Primary%20After%20Action%20Report.pdf.
As a result of the report, Warner announced that the state developed and will offer voters a free, easy-to-use online absentee ballot request portal for the November election. Beginning Aug. 11, voters will be able to complete an application using the absentee ballot application portal.
"This remarkable tool will greatly reduce any burden on eligible voters to request an absentee ballot, assist county clerks with processing increases in absentee voting, and reduce errors and lost ballots," Warner said. "Since 2001, the Legislature found it important to ask voters to apply for an absentee ballot. This online tool also allows our clerks to focus on the most important parts of the election – the health and safety of our voters and poll workers, and holding an accurate and fair election."
The online absentee ballot application option will allow county clerks to focus resources and responses to voters who request an absentee ballot by mail or phone call. Using the online portal to request an absentee ballot, voters' requests will arrive at the clerk's office faster, reduce issues related to the U.S. Mail service, decrease opportunities for human error, and help protect voters' right to participate.
Voters who do not have access to the portal may still request an absentee ballot application form by contacting their county clerks by phone, email or fax. The form will be mailed upon request.
Warner encourages all voters to check their registration and polling location ahead of the November election at GoVoteWV.com. The last day to register to vote or to update current voter registration is Oct. 13.