PARKERSBURG - Legislation passed during the most recent session will allow counties to have additional early vote locales, and clarifies residency requirements for county commission candidates.
House Bill 2464, which passed the Legislature and is awaiting the governor's signature, authorizes county commissions to designate voting locations other than the courthouse or annex, with the approval of the county clerk and "written agreement of the chairpersons of the county executive committees of the two major political parties." The new locales would also have to comply with criteria which will be prescribed by the Secretary of State "to assure neutrality and security."
"Because of the safeguards provided in the legislation, I think it's a positive move," said Wood County clerk Jamie Six. "We'll have to wait and get together with the two political parties' executive committees and sit down with them and get some suggestions and feedback. I think we need to look at the costs. Obviously with the upcoming off-year election, we aren't looking at nearly the level of turnout, unfortunately, that we get during a presidential election year," Six said, noting in off-year elections it might not be cost-effective to have additional early vote locales.
Currently, early voting is offered the Judge Donald F. Black Courthouse Annex. The presidential election drew 122,000 early voters statewide, Wood County saw 9,445 votes cast during the early voting period which began Oct. 15 and ended Nov. 1.
Although it hasn't been a problem locally, another piece of legislation clarifies residency requirement timeframes for commission candidates.
"The courts had ruled different ways. At one point, they had to be residing in the district upon nomination. Other times, it was residing in the district at the time of taking office," Six said.
House Bill 2962 requires the candidate be residing in the appropriate district at the end of filing, or if no one files, by the time the political party executive committees have until the primary to appoint, they must be residing there then.
The legislation notes "there is confusion concerning when a candidate for county commission must be a resident of the magisterial district he or she wants to represent. The supreme court has discussed the residency requirement in several cases and has conflicting interpretations."