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HUNTINGTON — Voter registration workers in Wayne and Cabell counties said they are working around the clock to process absentee voter requests, which have increased significantly amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Because of the ongoing pandemic, all voters in West Virginia are eligible to vote absentee in the West Virginia Primary Election, which is Tuesday, June 9. Requests for absentee ballots are pouring in and more are expected to arrive before June 3, which is the final day requests may be processed.

In Cabell County, workers have mailed out approximately 8,500 absentee ballot applications to the county’s more than 56,000 registered voters. For comparison, the county mailed out 395 absentee ballot requests for the entire 2016 election.

“We have worked day and until late in the evening trying to get it all done and we’ve actually hired outside help to get it all done,” said Terri Hazelett, deputy Cabell County Clerk.

Hazelett said she’s been involved with elections and absentee ballots for the past 25 years and has never seen an election cycle like this one. If county offices reopen soon, she predicts her office will work seven days a week in solely processing ballot requests.

In Wayne County, which has more than 28,000 registered voters, workers have mailed out about 1,500 absentee ballot applications. In an average election year, they process about 300, said Brenda Osburn, deputy Wayne County Clerk.

Osburn said she will be voting early at the Wayne County Courthouse, but if she wasn’t she would also be requesting to vote by mail.

“I don’t blame them,” she said.

To vote absentee in West Virginia, registered voters must contact their county clerk’s office to request an absentee ballot application. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, people are urged to call the offices beforehand to learn how they can receive and send an application. These applications must be returned to the county clerks’ offices on or before June 3.

Once approved, the county clerk will mail an absentee ballot with prepaid postage and instructions. Ballots must be postmarked on or before June 9 to be counted.

Early voting in West Virginia is from May 27 to June 6.

Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.

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