County clerks and the Secretary of State’s office are making it easy for you, whichever way you choose to vote.
Half of West Virginians who voted in the June 2020 primary election took the state up on the option to vote absentee during the pandemic—225,000, compared with 6,570 absentee ballots cast in the 2016 primary. “So we had 39 times the absentee ballots we’re used to,” says West Virginia Secretary of State spokesman Mike Queen. “The primary election was all about learning how to process that many absentee ballots.”
All voters have the option again of voting absentee in the November 3 general election, and county clerks and the secretary of state’s office are ready. Here’s what you need to know.
How do I get an absentee ballot? First, be registered to vote—if you’re not, register here through October 13. Then, you have three options.
- Request a ballot through the West Virginia Secretary of State’s online absentee ballot application portal.
- If you prefer to complete the absentee ballot application by hand, you can download it, print it out, and mail it to Monongalia County Clerk, 243 High Street, Room 123, Morgantown WV 26505.
- Or you can call the county clerk’s office to receive a ballot application in the mail: 304.291.7230.
The last day to request an absentee ballot is October 28.
What information do I have to provide on the ballot application? You will be asked for your first and last name, birth date, DMV ID number or last four digits of your social security number, and county. All of that is to validate your identity. You’ll also be asked for a phone number or email address—this information enters you into the new system that will let you track your ballot.
I’m able-bodied—how do I justify requesting an absentee ballot? Online, choose “COVID-19/Other,” then “Illness, injury or other medical reason which keeps me confined (includes concerns of COVID-19).” On the printed ballot application, check “Illness, injury or other medical reason which keeps me confined (includes concerns of COVID-19).”
How does a person make a realistic signature on a touchpad? We’ll leave that for you to figure out. Signing completes your application, and ballots will be mailed beginning September 18.
OK, then—when I vote, how will I know for certain that my mailed-in ballot has been received? Instructions received by email or phone after you complete the application will get you into the new online tracking system. Starting on September 18, you’ll be able to see when your ballot has been mailed to you. And after you complete the ballot and mail it back, you’ll be able to confirm before Election Day that the county clerk has received it. If not, you can vote in-person on Election Day, explaining that you voted by mail but it was not received, and vote on a “challenged ballot” that will be verified to prevent duplicates.
“We expect the number of absentee ballots to go up to 250,000 or 260,000 in the general election if the coronavirus stays the same,” Queen says. “Our clerks are ready.”
But you can also still vote in person if you prefer, and polling places will have COVID safety measures in place. “We spent a lot of time training our pollworkers, and not one case of COVID-19 was attributed to the primary election,” Queen says. Early in-person voting will take place October 21–31. Election Day is November 3, and polls are open 6:30 a.m.–7:30 p.m. Closer to the election, you can check your polling location on the Monongalia County Clerk’s website or the West Virginia Secretary of State’s website.