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Rhodes: Workers ready to man Wood County voting sites

West Virginia primary scheduled for June 9

PARKERSBURG — Officials believe they will have enough poll workers for the primary election on June 9.

Wood County Clerk Mark Rhodes appeared before the Wood County Commission on Monday to give an update on election preparation.

“We have enough to fill the positions,” he said.

Early voting will start May 27 at the Judge Black Annex. The county’s satellite sites will start early voting on June 2 at the Vienna Community Building, Williamstown High School, Mineral Wells School and Lubeck Elementary.

All of the sites will be open Election Day and operating as consolidated voting precincts as the traditional voting sites will be closed. Anyone from around the county can go to one of those sites to vote. Election officials will have copies of each ballot being used and will be loaded into a voting machine to vote. Each machine will print a completed ballot which will be fed into a scanner to be counted.

Rhodes made calls over the weekend to see who would be able to work and who wouldn’t, including checking with those who already withdrew.

“Some said they would work both (early voting and election day),” he said. “Others said they would just work election day.”

They currently have four Democrat alternates, three non-partisan alternates and 20 Republican alternates. Republicans have traditionally appointed more than the others in the past, Rhodes said.

Over the past couple of weeks poll workers, many who have worked many prior elections, have been informing county officials they will not be able to work this year due to health concerns from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Rhodes said they had a couple more call off Monday morning who had previously said they would be able to work.

Rhodes said he is planning to have 10 people at each of the consolidated voting precincts locations during early voting. On election day, he is planning on increasing the number of workers at all five sites. He will be using some of the employees in his office to help out.

County officials had hopes of possibly opening an additional consolidated precinct site or two to help keep crowd sizes down, but they could not secure additional locations.

“We would like to have more locations, not less,” Commission President Blair Couch said. “We don’t want anyone to be turned away because they don’t want to stand outside and wait that long to get in.”

Officials were hoping to have people at the traditional voting locations on Election Day to help guide people to the consolidated precincts, in case they did not know about the change. Rhodes is not sure they will have enough people yet.

Officials have gotten some people, who declined to work the polls, volunteer to sit at the regular voting sites and help direct people to the consolidated sites.

The consolidated locations would be open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on that Saturday during early voting. On election day, they would be open 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Officials mailed applications to all registered voters to see if they want to vote by absentee ballots, due to health concerns. Over 9,000 were sent out.

As of Saturday, they have received around 5,900 back.

During a normal election, they would have over 400 absentee ballots returned.

Once Early Voting starts, the County Clerk’s office can open the absentee ballots and put them through the counting machines.

“That way they will be in the Election Night totals,” Rhodes said.

The counts will signify which ones were absentee, early voting and ballots cast on Election Day.

Commissioner Jimmy Colombo talked about the concern some have about absentee ballots and the potential for fraud.

Rhodes said fraud is most possible when ballots are mailed to everyone in an area.

“In West Virginia, you have to apply to get an absentee ballot,” he said. “We only send it to the person who is applying.”

Signature comparisons, with what they have on record, when the ballot is sent back are part of the process.

Some signatures change over time so additional checks are conducted with the voter to make sure they were the one who sent in a ballot. If they verify it, they ask the voter if they can update their signature record.

“We do everything we can to make sure fraud doesn’t happen,” Rhodes said.

There have been races that have been decided by a handful of votes, Rhodes said adding his first election for County Clerk he won by five votes and Couch said he won once by 18 votes.

“We have had close elections here,” Rhodes said.

People with questions about voting and where to vote can call the County Clerk’s office at 304-424-1860. Other county officials have been directed to refer people with voting questions to the County Clerk’s office.

Officials will update the county’s website at woodcountywv.com to list the consolidated polling locations and when they will be open.

Contact Brett Dunlap at bdunlap@newsandsentinel.com

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