Voting: West Virginia officials must start planning
West Virginia’s primary election is scheduled to be held May 12, less than two months from now. Though it we all hope COVID-19 will be a much less serious concern by then, it is beginning to seem more likely it will still be with us.
Monday, Ohio officials decided that, to safeguard the public’s health, they must postpone the election set for Tuesday.
“We should not force (voters) to make this choice, the choice between their health and their constitutional rights and duties as American citizens,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine explained.
Given the situation this week, DeWine was correct, though he is likely wishing he had not waited until almost literally the eleventh hour to set his decision in motion. Many Ohio voters would have been reluctant to go out in public, perhaps into crowded polling places, to cast ballots. The same may be true of West Virginian’s May 12.
It is too early to make assumptions. But Gov. Jim Justice, Secretary of State Mac Warner and others in West Virginia should learn from DeWine’s challenges and begin considering what to do if COVID-19 remains a worry in mid-May. The groundwork for delaying our primary election should be laid.
In the meantime, voters may want to consider making use of the early voting process, now scheduled to be available from April 29 through May 9. State officials may want to consider how that should be handled, too. Clearly, extraordinary steps to safeguard voters’ health should be taken.
Federal officials are, rightly, being criticized for failure to act more expeditiously to prepare Americans for COVID-19, especially in regard to the availability of kits to test whether people have been infected.
There is virtually nothing state officials can do about that or many other concerns. What they can do is get ahead of the game and avoid the confusion imposed upon millions of Ohio voters during an already stressful time.