Early Voting Begins April 21; Tennant Details New Election Procedures
Charleston, W.Va. – Registered voters in West Virginia can begin casting early ballots April 21 at their county courthouses. In two counties, voters can also cast their ballot at a secure satellite precinct.
Voters in Jackson County will be able to vote at the county courthouse in Ripley and at a secure satellite precinct in Ravenswood. Voters in Monroe County will be able to vote at the courthouse in Union and the satellite precinct in Peterstown.
The option for counties to set up a secure satellite precinct passed the state legislature in 2009. Four entities - the county clerk, the county commission, and the two chairs of the political parties – had to approve the location of a satellite precinct to ensure fairness.
In another pilot program for 2010 military and overseas voters who are registered in five counties – Jackson, Kanawha, Marshall, Monongalia, and Wood – now have the option to vote using a secure internet connection. The system uses military style encryption to ensure ballot security and secrecy.
Dozens of military and overseas voters have taken advantage of this pilot program and have already voted.
Another change an unaffiliated voter may notice at the polls this year is a sign that explains how they can request a ballot to vote in the Democratic, Mountain, or Republican Party Primary. This eliminates any poll worker partisanship or pressure that an unaffiliated voter may experience.
“These changes make voting more accessible and fair,” Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant said. “We can make it easier for people who live far away from their county courthouse to vote by setting up secure satellite precincts. We can make sure the members of our military, who are fighting for our freedom to vote, have the opportunity to vote. And we can make sure unaffiliated voters don’t feel pressured in any way when they want to vote in a major party primary.”
Early voting has remained popular since it began in 2002. During the 2004 general election more than 126,000 people voted early – about 16% of the total turnout during that election. During the 2002 midterm primary election about 14,000 people voted early and in the 2006 midterm primary election about 25,000 people voted early. There are about 1.2 million registered voters in West Virginia.