Upshur County leads the state in absentee ballot requests

Upshur County had the highest percentage of voters in the state request absentee ballots for the June 9 Primary Election, according to data released by Secretary of State Mac Warner on Friday.

More than 4,000 people – totaling 31.6% of Upshur County’s 13,854 registered voters — requested absentee ballots by the June 3 deadline. Nearly three-quarters of those have already been returned.

Upshur County Clerk Carol Smith said the decision to include return postage was one factor that helped boost the absentee ballot request rate locally.

“That’s a result of a lot of hard work from the people in our office,” Smith told My Buckhannon after learning of the numbers on Friday. “We were one of very few counties that decided to include return postage on the cards for the applications. Our commission decided we wanted to do that for the voters, so that may have played a factor.”

More than 3,000 completed ballots have already been returned, she said.

“It’s a big number, but probably for the number we mailed out it’s about an average return rate,” she said.

Absentee ballots must be hand-delivered to county clerks by Monday, June 8, or mailed with a postmark by June 9.

“Keep in mind, I believe the last mail that goes out is at 4:30 p.m., so be cautious of that if you’re going to drop it off in the mail,” Smith said.

According to a press release from Warner, “As of the close of business on June 4, a total of 262,441 voters in West Virginia had applied for an absentee ballot. Of those, 191,346 had already returned their completed ballots. Absentee voters in this primary election make up about 15.6% of the state’s registered voters.”

Early voting numbers, however, were down in Upshur County.

Smith updated the Upshur County Commission on the upcoming election at Thursday’s meeting. As of that time, 512 people had voted early.

“In 2018, I think the Primary was like 2,500 (in early voting) and the General Election was over 3,000,” Smith told the commission. “Early voting is definitely way down.”

She said several people have asked what they should do if they have received an absentee ballot but would rather vote in person.

“The big thing to remember is, if you have the [absentee] ballot, bring it in with you when you go vote,” Smith said. “They will spoil the ballot and you can vote.”

Smith said you cannot turn in completed absentee ballots at a polling location Tuesday. If a person does come to a polling location with a filled out absentee ballot, poll workers will spoil the ballot and the person will have to vote in person.

Warner, the Secretary of State, said voters should feel safe and secure heading to the polls.

“We want voters to know that casting a ballot in-person will be safe and secure,” Warner said in the press release. “Counties have received guidance on how to disinfect polling locations, sanitize equipment, and properly run in-person voting. With state and federal health officials recommending social distancing, voters should anticipate lines that may appear long – though wait times should not be increased.

“With record numbers of people exercising absentee and early voting options, we do not anticipate long wait times at polls. We also recommend voters wear a mask to protect others if they choose to do so.”

According to Smith, the Upshur County Courthouse will be open to the public Tuesday night as the results are tabulated. However, if the courthouse starts to get too crowded, people will have to wait outside on the plaza.

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