If there was any doubt that West Virginians were eager to vote, numbers from the secretary of state’s office should dispel them.
As of Monday, 240,206 of the state’s 1,268,460 registered voters, or about 19%, had already cast their ballots. Despite all the chatter leading up to the election about how popular absentee voting would be, more people had stood in line to vote early than had voted absentee — 126,147 early, 114,059 absentee.
Pre-Election Day voting was more popular in Cabell County than in most of the state, with 21.4% having already voted. The use of absentee and early voting varied widely throughout the area. Wayne County had seen 14.4% voting turnout, Lincoln County 19.1%, Mason County 16.4%, Putnam County 24.8%, Kanawha County 20.8%, Boone County 11.7%, Logan County 9.0% and Mingo County 7.9%.
Statewide, percentages ranged from 29.1% in Wood County to 4.5% in McDowell County.
There was no doubt absentee and early voting would be heavy this year given the intensity of debate surrounding it, driven mainly by the presidential election. Interest in the down-ballot races had been almost invisible until the past few weeks. But they, too, could be driving some of the interest in voting so far.
For years if not decades, people who have a high interest in government and politics had complained about low voter interest and low turnout at election time. They wondered what it would take to generate enough interest to get people to stand in line or to vote remotely. Now they have their answer. Whether it’s the answer they wanted, we’ll have to see.
So now what? Early voting in West Virginia continues at various locations through Saturday. The deadline to request an absentee ballot has passed, but several options remain for submitting your absentee ballot if you’ve not yet done so. Absentee ballots can either be mailed back to voters’ county clerks’ offices or returned directly to those offices in person. If mailed, absentee ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 3 and received by county clerks before county commissions begin canvassing the election Nov. 9.
Election Day is Tuesday. In West Virginia the normal voting hours of 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. will be observed. Anyone in line to vote at their local precinct by 7:30 p.m. will be able to vote.
Usually these editorials end with an appeal to people to get out and vote. It’s the most important election in our lifetimes. Democracy hangs in the balance. All that stuff.
Considering the turnout for absentee and early voting so far, such an appeal probably isn’t necessary.
And that’s good, right?