CHARLESTON — Amid precautions taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 throughout the state, West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner’s office has recorded “historic participation” in absentee voting for the state’s June primary election, with more than 17% of voters participating so far as ballots continue to arrive at local clerks’ offices.
In April, eligible voters began receiving pink-colored slips notifying them they were eligible to vote by absentee ballot in Tuesday’s election, which was originally set for May and moved to June because of the global pandemic. The slips instructed voters on how to apply for absentee ballots at their county clerks’ offices.
According to Warner, as of Tuesday, 262,362 voters — about 21% of the state’s 1,229,520 eligible voters — requested an absentee ballot. Of those, 210,749 — about 17.2% of eligible voters — had cast their ballots by Tuesday. Another 42,400 participated in early voting.
Comparatively, fewer than 6,700 absentee ballots were cast in the 2016 presidential primary. A total of 495,407 ballots were cast during the 2016 primary election altogether, Warner said.
As of Monday, 13,134 of Cabell County’s 56,784 registered voters — about 23.1% — had requested absentee ballots, of which 10,223 — about 78% — had been returned. In Wayne County, 4,752 of its 27,106 registered voters — 17.5% — had requested ballots, with 3,781 — about 80% — being returned.
In Kanawha County, nearly 25% — 30,407 of 122,520 registered voters — had requested ballots, of which about 74% — 22,577 — had been returned. In Putnam County, 9,612 of its 38,724 voters — about 25% — requested ballots, with about 82% — 7,851 — being returned.
Those numbers could rise as the office continues to receive ballots, which had to be postmarked or returned to the clerk’s office by Tuesday.
Warner said while in-person voting is recognized as the “gold standard” of voting, absentee voting is a secure way to vote, as well. His office is working to deter election fraud and has teamed up with U.S. attorneys, FBI, State Police and the Attorney General’s Office to form an election anti-fraud task force to combat any election fraud, he previously said.
“West Virginia offers voters more options to cast a ballot than any other state in the nation,” he said. “Working with our county clerks, we are making sure that every option is safe and secure.”