Low Voter Turnout In Primary; Tennant Touts Cooperation In Smooth Running Election
Charleston, W.Va. – The day after the midterm primary election Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said voter turnout in West Virginia was 15-20 percent, down from the 2006 midterm primary when voter turnout was 26 percent.
The final voter turnout number will be available after canvassing. Boards of Canvassers will begin reviewing ballots on Friday.
About 166,000 people in West Virginia cast ballots in the midterm primary election, including the more than 40,000 people who took advantage of early voting. There are about 1.2 million registered voters in the state.
Tennant had expected a turnout of about 25 percent.
“I’m glad there are dedicated voters who, rain or shine, got out and exercised their right to vote,” Tennant said. “Of course, I would have liked to see voter turnout up around 60 percent like we had in 2008. I’m disappointed in the turnout because having the right to vote is so important. And even though we weren’t electing a President or Governor we were electing our school boards, Delegates, and members of Congress. Hopefully, we will see the voter turnout number go up during the general election later this year.”
In the 2006 midterm general election, voter turnout rebounded to about 41 percent.
Tennant praised the effort of county clerks and poll workers, who have been preparing for the election for months.
“The work they do is really incredible. The county clerks have so much going on for so long as they get ready, and the poll workers have to go through pretty extensive training. And they all put in such long days on Election Day. Simply put, without them we wouldn’t have elections,” Tennant said.
Members of the Secretary of State Elections Division were standing by at the State Capitol all day, answering calls from county clerks and concerned voters. Outreach Staff and representatives from Election Systems and Software and the Office of Technology were in all 55 counties for on-site precinct support.
“Just like the clerks and poll workers, some of our staff worked a 21 hour day – from 4:30 in the morning on Election Day to 1:30 the next morning. They’re incredibly dedicated and I thank them for working so hard to make sure the people of West Virginia have fair and open elections.”
During this midterm election, there were two pilot programs designed to help make voting more accessible to people in West Virginia. Voters in Jackson and Monroe Counties could vote early at secure satellite precincts away from the county courthouse. Both counties saw marked increases in early voting totals. In five counties – Jackson, Kanawha, Marshall, Monongalia, and Wood – military and overseas voters could cast absentee ballots using a secure internet connection.
Several counties also used an e-poll book, a program that runs on a laptop computer that contains voter registration information. Instead of signing a paper poll book, voters sign in on a screen similar to the ones found in check out lines. Poll workers can then verify a voter’s signature, make sure the voter is at the correct polling place, and even give directions to the correct polling place.