We still vote during a viral pandemic

In a normal year, this next week would have been a time for us at the newspaper to remind everyone about the importance of going to your polling location in a little over a week.

West Virginia’s primary election was supposed to be held May 12. The biggest item on the ballot, of course, will be the presidential election. Once again, because of mathematics of delegate counts and the suspension of campaigns, West Virginia doesn’t have much of a true choice no matter which party you support.

Then, there are state legislators and various county offices.

With the viral pandemic still in effect, though, officials have pushed the primary to June 9. That gives us a little more time to research those seeking office and to become better informed on their backgrounds and their platforms.

We also have the option of using the absentee voting process for the primary.

Ever since I registered to vote, I have made it a point to take the time to go to my polling location and vote in person. The drive from my home to the polls is a few miles, but I would usually make the trip after work and it wouldn’t take long to go in, fill out the papers and cast my vote.

This time around, not knowing how things are going to play out with the “reopening” of our state, I opted to go the absentee route. By now, you should have received a form to apply for an absentee ballot.

If you haven’t, please call your local county clerk’s office and make sure they have the correct information in order to get it to you. Apparently, there have been some cases where voter registration wasn’t changed after city-style addressing went into effect in some of our rural areas.

The form you are sent asks for confirmation of name and address, and also to select the party whose ballot you want to vote on. Democrats ask for a Democratic ballot. Republicans ask for a Republican ballot.

The confusion in some areas has been for those who are registered as Independent or Non-partisan. Under West Virginia law, those individuals are able to request either ballot.

There also is a non-partisan ballot, but those include only the non-partisan races being held this year. Those include various judicial seats and county board of education races, for example. In other words, if you request a non-partisan ballot, you won’t be able to vote for president, state legislators or county commission.

Filling out the application takes only a couple of minutes, then you send it off to your county clerk and they will send you a ballot. I live in Brooke County, and it took me less than a week to get my ballot after applying.

There’s no worrying about getting to the polling location before it closes. Just fill out the ballot and pop it in the mailbox.

I say all of this as a way to continue to encourage the participation of our citizens in the voting process. The next few weeks are going to involve a lot of adjusting as businesses slowly begin to restart operations, and people might still be concerned about going outside of their homes.

This is an opportunity for us to stay safe at home and still take part in one of our most important civic duties.

We are faced with numerous important decisions in the coming weeks and months. Deciding who will be representing us in the various public offices is still among them, whether we are staring down a global crisis or not.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)


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