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Staying in the loop ahead of the election

The countdown to Election Day continues. We are just over three weeks away from the 2020 general election on Tuesday, Nov. 3. We’re 10 days away from the start of early voting.

We’re 16 days away from Wednesday, Oct. 28, which is the deadline for voters who want an absentee ballot to have their application in the hands of their local county clerk (not postmarked, IN HAND).

And if you’re reading this on Monday, you have until Tuesday (tomorrow) to either register to vote in the election or make changes to your voter registration. Consider this your final reminder.

You can do all the things I talk about above by going to GoVoteWV.com, the Secretary of State’s web portal for all things elections. Request an absentee ballot, register to vote, update your registration, look at sample ballots, and much more.

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Speaking of voter registration, I’m doubtful the Republican Party can get to a majority of voter registrations after tomorrow’s voter registration deadline, but they’ll get pretty close.

According to the most recent voter registration report from the Secretary of State’s Office for the end of September, 37.5 percent of West Virginians were registered with the Democratic Party, while 35.7 percent were registered as Republicans, a difference of 1.8 percent.

In August, the difference between Republican and Democratic Party registration was 2.8 percent. When the deadline for voter registration closed for the June 9 primary on May 19, the difference between the two major parties was 4.1 percent. By my count, 25 out of 55 counties have a majority of registered Republicans.

Again, doubtful Republicans can make the majority by the end of the day tomorrow. It took 30 days for Democrats to lose another 1 percent. It doesn’t really matter, as a certain number of registered Democrats vote for Republicans, as do unaffiliated voters. But it’s probably time for the state Democratic Party to review its voter retention and recruitment efforts before the 2022 midterm elections.

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I’ve heard of October surprises, but usually the surprise is bad. Examples include candidate sex scandals, or a bad debate performance combined with a COVID-19 infection.

Gov. Jim Justice got a good October surprise with the announcement that Virgin Hyperloop was willing to come to West Virginia and set up its certification center. It sounds like sci-fi, but’s it’s closer to reality than you’d think. Soon, we’ll be able to transport people and goods between long distances in hours at the same price as trucking without the pollution, all through magnetic tubes.

Should construction start in 2021 as planned, it will bring thousands of construction jobs and nearly 200 permanent full-time jobs. It will involve our entire higher education system and provide valuable training and experience in science and engineering fields of study. It is an example of the kinds of good things that can come to West Virginia with good planning.

Keep in mind, this new facility will be built on 800 acres between Tucker and Grant counties. It’s near Corridor H. It’s close to West Virginia University and can tap into their science and research departments. It’s near several outdoor activity areas, such as Timberline and Canaan Valley. It’s only a few hours from Washington, D.C.

This project will hire West Virginians, yes, but it will also be a draw for new people to move to West Virginia. It shows that our image is changing. We need that desperately.

So, win or lose in November, Justice can certainly end the year on a good note regardless.

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But so far, third-party polls have Justice safely in the lead. The WMOV 1360 AM/Triton Polling and Research poll released Tuesday had Justice ahead of Democratic challenger and Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango by 10.8 points, 48.4 percent to 37.6 percent. That lead shrinks if you factor in the margin of error, but there were 6.2 percent undecided.

Another poll, which is a bit more suspect, has Justice leading Salango by only 6 points with a 4-percent margin of error and 8 percent undecided. The poll released Wednesday by Strategies Unlimited for anti-Justice group West Virginia First has Justice leading Salango 46 percent to 40 percent.

I say the poll is suspect because no one has ever heard of Strategies Unlimited. FiveThirtyEight, a website that focuses on polling, couldn’t find any info on them. Doing a deep dive, I did determine they’re based in Ohio, but have found no further information.

The company has been paid for their survey work by Country Roads PAC, which is affiliated with U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. As for West Virginia First, it’s funded by Country Roads PAC and Mountain State Values PAC, a union-affiliated group campaigning against a number of Republicans.

The MetroNews West Virginia Poll, released Friday, has the margin between Justice and Salango even higher. In that poll, Justice leads Salango 53 percent to 34 percent – a 19-point spread. Support for the two minor parties was a combined 7 percent, and 6 percent were undecided.

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Speaking of campaign finance, Justice did pretty good this last quarter. He raised $889,939 during the quarter, bringing his election year-to-date donations to $1.591 million. Salango raised $564,033 during the quarter, bringing his total in year-to-date donations to $1.552 million. Justice is heading into the last four weeks of the election with $262,936, while Salango has $152,918 in cash-on-hand.

Looking through the larger donations to Justice, it was interesting to see who was giving to his campaign. Many of the names I saw are people who have been frequent donors to Democratic candidates over the years, but many have switched their giving to Republicans like Justice. That tells that perhaps they have their fingers up in the air seeing which way the wind is blowing.

Even Woody Thrasher, Justice’s top challenger in the June 9 Republican primary, opened up his wallet to give to Justice’s reelection effort. I imagine that’s to save face since his engineering company does work on state and local government projects.

Still, if Justice’s former secretary of the Department of Commerce who was forced to resign and then later switched his party from Democrat to Republican to challenge Justice in the primary and lost can mend bridges to support Justice, that says a lot.

(Adams is the state government reporter for Ogden Newspapers. He can be contacted at sadams@newsandsentinel.com)

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