Charleston, W.Va. -- The proposed rules for the Vote By Mail Pilot Program are available for public comment on the Secretary of State's website at www.wvsos.com.
The program is divided into two phases. To see both phases of the proposed rules, click here and here.
The legislation to allow municipalities to participate in the Vote By Mail Pilot Program passed during the 2009 Legislative Session (HB 3134).
The proposed rule for Phase One says each Class IV municipality (fewer than 2,000 people) wishing to conduct early voting by mail instead of in person must adopt an ordinance expressing that intent. The municipality must then notify the Secretary of State's office no later than January 31 of the year of the election. Municipal election officials would then be required to attend training provided by the Secretary of State's Office.
The proposed rule for Phase One also lays out how municipalities must notify voters. Notice must be mailed to every registered voter in the municipality no more than four weeks or less than two weeks before the start of the early voting period. The proposed rule also says how the voter should package his or her vote to be sent back to the election officials and when that ballot is due.
According to the new law, any Class IV municipality that wishes to conduct early voting by mail may do so, provided they follow the guidelines laid out in the proposed rule for Phase One.
The proposed rule for Phase Two of Vote by Mail outlines the process for selecting up to five municipalities of any class to conduct their entire election by mail.
In that process, the interested municipalities would be required to submit certain information to the Secretary of State's Office to be considered for the program. That information includes how they plan on handling ballot security, ballot drop boxes, and historical election information including turnout and cost.
The historical data will be used for comparison of data from pilot program elections to determine the program's success.
Also according to the proposed rule for Phase Two, if more than five municipalities meet the requirements for conducting their entire election by mail, the five municipalities that will be permitted to take part in the program will be chosen at random. If fewer than five municipalities meet the requirements, they will all be permitted to take part in the program.
The public comment period for this proposed rule ends July 27. Then, Secretary Tennant and the Elections Division will take into consideration all public comments, make necessary changes, and file an Agency Approved Rule before July 31. That rule will go to the Legislative Rule Review Committee, a joint committee made up of State Senators and Delegates. That committee will introduce the rule in the Senate and House no later than the twentieth day of the regular session. The rule will then proceed through the legislative process, and can be amended by Senators and Delegates.
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