Early voting ends Saturday in West Virginia

WHEELING – It’s not too late to vote early in West Virginia’s primary election, as residents can still cast ballots today and Saturday in advance of Election Day on Tuesday.

Every courthouse will be open to voters from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, the last day for early voting. Friday hours vary slightly by county: Ohio and Brooke counties, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Hancock and Marshall counties, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Wetzel County, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Tyler County.

Among local counties, Ohio County has led the way in terms of turnout during the early voting period, with 755 ballots cast – but poll workers at the City-County Building in downtown Wheeling haven’t found themselves overwhelmed.

“Turnout’s been low, as we expected,” said Toni Chieffalo, Ohio County elections coordinator.

There are plenty of advantages to voting early, Chieffalo said. There’s less chance of having to wait in line, for example, and there should be ample parking available, at least on Saturday.

“If for some reason you realize that next Tuesday, you may not be able to get to your polling place to vote, we’re here all day – nine to five,” she said.

As of late Thursday afternoon, Marshall County reported 623 early voters; Wetzel County, 423; Brooke County, about 240; and Tyler County, just 169 – despite offering extended hours through much of the early voting period. Hancock County elections officials had not provided a total as of closing time Thursday.

Although most candidates face opposition in November, there are few contested primaries on Tuesday’s ballot, and the outcome of the biggest one – the Senate race, led by Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-Wheeling, and Democrat Secretary of State Natalie Tennant – is widely considered a foregone conclusion.

There are still non-partisan board of education races and property tax levies on the ballot in several counties that will be decided in this election, but the lack of contested primaries in higher-level races appears to have spoiled voters’ appetite to go to the polls, according to officials.

More than 2,200 people have taken advantage of early voting in the Northern Panhandle since April 30. By comparison, about 1,400 people cast a ballot on the first day of early voting alone for the 2012 general election, which featured a presidential and gubernatorial race.

On Tuesday, polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.