Governor Jim Justice said Wednesday that West Virginia would push the date of the 2020 primary election back a month. The new date is Tuesday, June 9.
Buckhannon mayor David McCauley said the city will follow suit and move the city election to June 9 as well. The city election is held on a common ballot with the statewide primary, he noted.
The governor said in recent days he had been hopeful the primary could be held on its original date of May 12, but the evolving health situation made that impossible.
“As we continued to get closer and closer, it’s ever so apparent that’s just the wrong way to go,” Justice said. “All of us saw last night our president come out with a very, very glum report.”
Justice made the decision after consulting with Secretary of State Mac Warner and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.
“We all agree that what we should do is move forward in a way that we’re going to extend the primary election date to June 9,” he said.
Buckhannon’s mayor agreed that moving the date is the proper course of action given the circumstances.
“It’s the right thing to do,” McCauley said. “How could we expect people to come out on May 12 when they don’t feel safe doing so?”
Expanded absentee ballot measures will remain intact, but the governor said he felt it was important to try and give residents the opportunity to go to the polls and vote as they have in the past.
“I am very, very hopeful by extending they will have the ability to do just that,” he said. “All of us should treasure the opportunity and privilege to vote.”
Justice said the June 9 date was selected as the first Tuesday after all schools are officially closed – adding he is hopeful students will return to the classroom, even if just for a few weeks.
“We are very, very hopeful to be able to go back to school,” Justice said.
He also extended the statewide school closure through April 30, the date the current CDC guidelines on social distancing expire.
Although updated numbers have not been released by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, the governor said the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 had spiked to 191 in the last day, with an increased positive test rate of 6.7 percent.
He noted, however, that West Virginia is still being very selective in its testing.
“We’re not just testing a big sector of people,” Justice said. “So our numbers should be trending toward the higher side.”
The governor said the number of people now dying to the virus in America is tragic.
“If you watch the death count, every 2-3 hours we lose the capacity of a typical airliner of 200 people,” he said. “It’s really tragic what is happening.”
West Virginia coronavirus czar Dr. Clay Marsh said that as a country, we should be prepared for COVID-19 deaths to approach or exceed 100,000 people across the United States.
“We may lose a lot of Americans,” he said, referencing a model by the University of Washington.
However, the measures taken in West Virginia could help the state avoid some of the spikes seen in other parts of the country, he added.
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