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There’s still time to be an educated voter

We’re only a few days away from the general election.

For several thousand West Virginians, that’s not going to matter much because they have already cast their votes using either the absentee ballot or early voting programs offered in the Mountain State. For everyone else, the only remaining option to ensure our votes are counted is to visit our polling location on Tuesday between 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.

One of the biggest issues for any election is whether voters know where their polling site is located. Weirton, for example, has a unique situation where the city is divided between two counties, so there are some areas where neighbors will be casting their votes at different locations.

In addition, several polling sites for this election, which includes county, state and national offices, are going to be different from the polling sites used for municipal elections. I know of several instances where this difference in alignment has resulted in confusion for the city’s residents. That’s something the city is hoping to adjust for its next election in four years after all of the charter changes approved by residents last year.

There are two quick ways voters can find their polling site if they are not certain. The first is to contact your county clerk’s office. They maintain a list of sites and can direct you to the appropriate one.

The second is to visit the West Virginia Secretary of State’s website at govotewv.com. There is a section for voters to check their voter registration status and locate their polling place by entering their first and last names and their date of birth. It will display your name, political party affiliation, whether you are listed as an active voter, your Congressional, state Senate, House of Delegates and magisterial districts, along with your polling precinct and voting location.

There’s also a link to a list of polling locations which have changed this year. For example, in Hancock County, voters in Precinct 11 who previously voted at Point Pleasant Church in New Cumberland will now vote at the New Cumberland City Building, and those in Precinct 17 who voted at the Marland Heights Community Church will go to the Top of West Virginia Convention and Visitors Bureau offices on Main Street in Weirton.

The website also includes links to sample ballots for each county. Again, you have to provide your name and birthdate, along with the county you are seeking. We’ve previously published a sample ballot from Hancock County (Brooke County chooses to go with another publication to run its sample ballot). But in the event you missed it, you still have a chance to look through your options.

We’ve been focusing much of our election coverage on the local and state races, including county commission, sheriff and others. Most of what voters are going to see are unopposed races, but there are a few which need you to make a selection, and they are just as important as any of the national elections which attract so much attention.

I’m not going to say anything to attempt to sway your vote in this. The important thing for any election, whatever your political affiliation may be, is to participate in the process. We’ve seen record-breaking early voting numbers in West Virginia in the last couple of weeks. I’ll let you decide whether that’s good or bad. Now, it’s time for everyone else who hasn’t voted to step forward and accept your responsibility as a citizen. Take the remaining couple of days to educate yourself on each candidate and issue appearing on your ballot, and then, on Tuesday, visit your polling location and cast your vote.

(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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