Morgantown, W.Va. – The number of voters who cast a ballot in the 2011 city election in Morgantown more than doubled the number seen in 2009, Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant and City Clerk Linda Little announced today.
3,648 ballots were cast in the first ever Vote By Mail election in West Virginia. During the 2009 city election, just 1,467 of the more than 16,000 registered voters went to precincts to cast a ballot. In 2007 voter turnout was even lower.
Morgantown’s Vote By Mail is a pilot program passed by the state legislature in 2009 that is set to expire in January of 2014. That means if the city chooses to, they may also conduct their entire municipal election by mail again in 2013.
“I’m happy the people of Morgantown responded to this program in such a positive way,” Secretary Tennant said. “We see states like Oregon and Washington conducting their entire elections by mail, and now we have Morgantown leading the way here in West Virginia. This was a pilot project, so we along with election officials in Morgantown will examine what went right and what we can improve upon. Hopefully other cities and towns will see how successful this was in Morgantown and take a close look at holding their elections by mail as well.”
Four other smaller municipalities – Bethany, Harrisville, Paw Paw, and West Hamlin – will conduct their early voting by mail this year.
“Our city council and I thought it was a great opportunity to try something new that would increase voter turnout,” Little said. “I’m glad that so many people saw this as an opportunity to truly lead the way when it comes to more accessible elections.”
All of Morgantown’s 16,625 registered voters were mailed a ballot on April 8. They had until 8:00 PM on April 26 to return the ballots by mail to the city clerk’s office, to deliver them by hand, or to drop them off at one of three secure locations around Morgantown. Signatures on the outside of the ballot envelopes were used to verify a voter’s identification, similar to how absentee voting is conducted in West Virginia.