Low W.Va. voter turnout expected
HUNTINGTON -- In a mid-term election year when most of the Mountain State is already focused more on November, Tuesday's primary is not expected to generate a large turnout.
"Early voting is going very, very slow," said Cabell County Clerk Karen Cole. "Not just here. I've talked with clerks across the state, and it's the same thing."
The Cabell County Clerk's Office opened an Ona branch before the 2012 general election.
At that office alone, 2,000 early votes were recorded in 2012.
Cole said as of Friday morning, there had been a mere 968 early votes cast in both offices combined. Early voting ended Saturday.
That doesn't bode well for when the polls open at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday.
"Off-year elections always have a lower turnout," Cole said. "For some reason, this year is extremely low. If the weather doesn't cooperate Tuesday, it may be even worse."
Some of the higher profile races that affect residents in Cabell and Wayne counties include the battle for Jay Rockefeller's U.S. Senate seat, and the Democratic primary for U.S. Congressional District 3.
Most analysts already have U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, a Democrat, penciled in for November's general election to take Rockefeller's place. However, both are contested in the primary.
Capito faces Parkersburg native Matthew Dodrill and former gubernatorial candidate Larry Eugene Butcher in the primary.
Tennant must stave off David B. Wamsley and Dennis Melton to make it to the general election.
In the U.S. District 3 race, incumbent Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., will have to overcome a strong grassroots campaign from retired Army Major Richard Ojeda on Tuesday.
Rahall has been in office for 38 years, and has found himself in a group of Democratic office holders that outside conservative fundraisers view as vulnerable.
The well-known Koch brothers have already spent more than $1.2 million in ads against Rahall in West Virginia, assuming he will make it to the general election to face Huntington's own Evan Jenkins, a state senator who last year switched parties and now finds himself unopposed in the Republican primary.
At the state level, two Democrats -- Mike Woelfel and Robert Alexander -- are seeking their party's nod in the primary to challenge Republican Vicki Dunn-Marshall to replace Jenkins in the District 5 Senate seat.
In the West Virginia House of Delegates, three seats are open in the 16th District, with incumbent Jim Morgan, D-Cabell, and fellow Democrats Lauren Plyamale and Sean Hornbuckle automatically advancing to the general election.
On the Republican side, it will be the best three out of five candidates who will move on, including incumbent Carol Miller, along with Dale Anderson II, David Bender, Lionel Jones and Patrick Lucas.
The State House District 17 race is moot in the primary. With two seats open, incumbent Democrats Doug Reynolds and Dale Stephens will move on to face Republicans Joyce W. Holland and Matthew Rorhbach in the general election.
In District 18, Billy J. Chaffin II and Joel Hutchinson will vie for the Democratic nod to face Republican incumbent Kelli Sobonya, who is unopposed, in November.
Two seats are open in State House District 19, with Democratic incumbents Don Perdue and Tim Kinsey facing newcomer Ken Hicks in the primary. Republicans Steve Marcum and Randy Tomblin automatically move on to the general election.
In Cabell County, the Democratic primary will determine the next circuit judge.
Former Cabell Prosecutor Chris Chiles, appointed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin in February to fill the void left by the retirement of Judge David Pancake, will vie for a full term on the bench against challenger Cheryl Henderson, daughter of West Virginia Civil Rights pioneer Herbert H. Henderson.
There is one open Cabell Magistrate seat, with incumbent Ron Baumgardner hoping to hold on against challengers Greg Lawson, John Dennison, John Ray Rice II, Opal Sanders and Brittany Nicole McIntyre. There is no Republican opponent in the race.
There are also two local school board races
Six candidates are seeking to fill three seats on the Cabell County Board of Education that are up for election this cycle.
Two of the three positions that are up for election are held by Bennie Thomas and Mary Alice Freeman, who are not seeking re-election. Board President Suzanne Oxley and board member Garland "Skip" Parsons are not up for re-election this year.
Mary L. Neely is the only board member seeking re-election. Those also vying for the open seats are Karen Nance, Samuel R. Moore, Nazim M. Abbess II, Scott Caserta and Rhonda E. Smalley.
There are four Board of Education districts in Cabell County, which are identified numerically. State law allows for the three candidates who receive the most votes to be elected to the board so long as no more than two of the top three are in the same district.
However, District 4 already is represented by Parsons, so that means only one of the three candidates running for the District 4 position can be elected. Those candidates are Abbess, Caserta and Smalley.
Oxley represents District 2, which has only one other candidate this election, Neely. Nance is from District 1, and Moore is from District 3.
Six people are vying to fill three vacant seats on the Wayne County Board of Education.
Board members Darik Adkins, Christopher Dean and Rob Pennington, vice president of the board, are not seeking re-election. The other two board members, board president Joann Hurley and Vickey Boyd, are not up for election during this election cycle.
Those jockeying for the open seats are Alvra "Junior" Adams, Shawn D. Francisco, Trey Morrone, Tina Turner Sarver, Johnita Jackson and Lois (White) Little.
As is the case in Cabell County, the three people who receive the most votes will fill the seats on the board, as long as no more than two of the top three are in the same district.
There are five voting districts in Wayne County: Butler, Ceredo, Stonewall, Union and Westmoreland.
Adams is the only candidate in the Stonewall District; Jackson is the only candidate in the Union District; and White is the only candidate in the Butler District.
Francisco, Morrone and Sarver are running out of the Ceredo District, so only two of the three of them could be elected to the board, even if they are the three top finishers in the election.
Boyd currently represents the Union district, so no more than one person could be elected to represent that district.
There are no candidates in Hurley's district of Westmoreland.
Outside of candidate races, residents in Cabell County will be voting on a levy while Wayne residents have a bond issue to consider.
In Wayne County, voters will decide whether to support an $18 million bond sale, which would go toward funding a total of $42 million in construction projects throughout the county.
If the measure is passed, the bond package would cover the cost of constructing a new Ceredo-Kenova Elementary School and a combined Crum PK-8 school as well as a classroom addition and renovation to Wayne High School.
The bonds would be paid for by the citizens of the county based on their annual property tax rate. The interest rate for the bond sale could go as high as 6.5 percent, but it would not exceed that amount.
According to information provided by Wayne County Schools, a person who owns a home worth $150,000 and a car worth $30,000, would pay an additional $128 each year in taxes.
If voters approve the bond, the West Virginia School Building Authority would match with its own $18 million. The school system will supply another $4.2 million, and the remaining $2 million will come from local funding and Qualified Zone Academy Bond funding.
The Cabell County Schools system is appealing to voters to renew its 60-year-old excess levy.
The measure was first passed by voters in 1954, and it since has become a vital supplement to the school system's budget, covering the cost of staffing, supplies and other initiatives not funded through state appropriations, Superintendent Bill Smith said.
The levy currently provides for 19.49 percent of the school system's unrestricted operating budget, or slightly less than $23.4 million each year.
It annually was generating $19.8 million when it last was approved by voters for the 2010-11 fiscal year.
If approved, the levy would go into effect for the 2015-16 fiscal year.
The levy also provides some funding to the Cabell County Library system and the Greater Huntington Parks & Recreation District.
The levy is expected to provide $1.4 million to the library and $440,000 to the district.
Follow reporter Ben Fields on Twitter @BenFieldsHD.
What voters need to know
Polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 13, for W.Va.'s primary election.
West Virginia has a "closed" primary, which means that people registered in one party cannot vote for candidates in another party. At the primary election, if you have listed a major party choice on your voter registration, you will be given the ballot of that major party. You will not have the right to receive the ballot of a different party.
If you register with no party affiliation, you will be given a nonpartisan ballot in the primary election. The political parties have the right to decide who may participate in their nominating processes.
The Democratic, Mountain and Republican Parties allow any voter who is not registered with an official major party to request their ballot for the Primary Election, but you have to ask the poll workers for a particular party ballot.
For more information, contact the county clerk's office. In Cabell County, call 304-526-8625. In Wayne County, call 304-272-6369.
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