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Early voting begins

PARKERSBURG — Early voting will get underway this morning in Wood County.

Wood County Clerk Mark Rhodes said polls will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Black Annex in downtown Parkersburg as well as the satellite sites of the Mineral Wells Volunteer Fire Department, the Vienna Community Building, the former Williamstown Elementary at 418 Williams Ave. and the new Blennerhassett Volunteer Fire Department at 5859 DuPont Road.

Early voting will run through Saturday, Oct. 31. Early voting on Saturday will be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the early voting locations.

Election Day is Nov. 3 and the county is planning to have all 68 precincts open for in-person voting.

All of the early voting sites will be open for the 10 days encompassing the early voting period to allow people time to vote as well as to spread out in regards to taking any precautions they feel is necessary in dealing with the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, Rhodes said.

In the past, only the Black Annex was open for the full 10 days, but county officials wanted to give people the opportunity to be able to vote and take precautions to deal with the pandemic.

Officials hope people will be able to spread themselves out during early voting so the polls are not as crowded on Election Day, Nov. 3.

“We will see how things go,” Rhodes said.

During the primary they had around 4,000 early voters and around 6,000 on Election Day, he said.

Rhodes said they usually see a lot of voters on the first day of early voting and he has advised people of that if they want to choose another day in order to avoid any potential crowds. If they have consistent crowds, Rhodes said they can bring in more voting machines to be able to keep people moving through.

“We may need to add more equipment to help alleviate any lines,” Rhodes said.

Due to state laws against campaigning at a voting site, people are being asked not to wear campaign-themed clothing to the voting sites. This can include candidate shirts, campaign buttons, face masks and so on.

“If they do, our people will have to ask them to cover it up,” Rhodes said. “It has been a concern for many of our poll workers.”

They will also have disposable face masks on hand if people need to switch to those, he said.

So far, the clerk’s office has received around 4,400 absentee ballots back out of the 5,745 sent out. Rhodes said

Rhodes said if someone has received an absentee ballot, but hasn’t voted it and now wants to vote in person, they are asked to bring the ballot with them to the voting site so personnel can void it out and let the people vote in person.

Voter registration recently ended Oct. 13. Currently, Wood County has just over 57,000 registered voters, Rhodes said.

West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner on Tuesday released an update on statewide voter participation.

Statewide, there were 138,073 absentee ballots requested and 91,298 absentee ballots have been cast. There are 1,268,460 registered voters statewide, according to a press release issued by his office.

As of Tuesday, 136,562 absentee ballots have been sent to voters, which equates to 98.9 percent of ballots requested.People can still request an absentee ballot. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is Oct. 28, and applications must be received by the county clerk by that date to be accepted, the release said.

Absentee ballots have to be post marked by Election Day to be accepted, Rhodes said.

There is an absentee ballot application portal at GoVoteWV.com or people can contact their county clerk’s office. The Wood County Clerk’s office can be reached at (304) 424-1850.

County officials are planning to open all of the voting precincts on Election Day.

Rhodes said they have been conducting poll worker training over the past week, teaching workers how to use the new electronic poll books.

“We have every position filled,” he said.

They need 304 workers on Election Day. Currently, they have three alternates.

Rhodes is looking at the possibility of putting County Clerk personnel in place, if needed.

They have had people who have called off and said they won’t be able to participate. Others never showed up for training.

Rhodes said he had enough non-partisan volunteers to fill the Republican poll worker slots he has open. Currently, he has enough Democrats for their positions.

Some of the people who have bowed out as poll workers, cited not requiring people to wear masks at the polls as a reason and the potential health concerns sitting there for 13-14 hours a day.

County officials wondered if the governor could make such a requirement through an executive order.

“Voting is a right,” Rhodes said. “That supersedes any executive order.

“We cannot deny them the right to vote.”

Other counties’ early voting sites:

• Calhoun County – The old Jail Building near the Calhoun County Courthouse at 363 Main Street, Grantsville

• Doddridge County – The Doddridge County Courthouse at 118 East Court Street, West Union

• Gilmer County – The Gilmer County Courthouse at 10 Howard Street, Glenville

• Jackson County – The Jackson County Courthouse at 100 N Court St., Ripley and the Ravenswood Branch of the Jackson County Library at 323 Virginia St, Ravenswood

• Pleasants County – The Pleasants County Courthouse at 301 Court Lane, St. Marys

• Ritchie County – The Ritchie County Courthouse at 115 East Main Street, Harrisville

• Roane County – Roane County Courthouse at 200 Main Street, Spencer

• Wirt County – The Wirt County Courthouse at 1 Court Square, Elizabeth

Contact Brett Dunlap at bdunlap@newsandsentinel.com

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