CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Secretary of State Mac Warner announced on Thursday that he has issued guidance and a funding opportunity to assist county clerks with mailing an absentee ballot application to every registered voter in West Virginia, according to a press release.
In the release, the Secretary of State’s Office said that returning the absentee ballot application is the first step to receiving the official ballot via mail. During the State of Emergency that has been issued as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, every registered voter in the state is eligible to vote an absentee-by-mail ballot in the May 12 Primary Election, according to the release.
The release detailed the three simple steps that are required for voting an absentee-by-mail ballot, which are:
- The voter submits an absentee ballot application to their county clerk
- Once approved, the county clerk will mail a postage prepaid absentee ballot with instructions and materials to the vote
- The voter marks the absentee ballot according to the instructions and places it in the mail to be postmarked by Election Day, May 12, 2020
The release stated that the goal of this uniform, statewide mailing is to ensure every eligible voter has an opportunity to vote while protecting the health of voters, county clerks’ staff members, election workers and the general population during the coronavirus pandemic, while also maximizing participation in the Primary Election. Secretary Warner’s Office will reimburse the cost of the mailings to county clerks in an expedited fashion to reduce the increased financial burden on county budgets, according to the release.
“The Governor, Attorney General, county clerks and I have zealously worked together within state law to balance health concerns with the ease of voting,” Warner said. “We have determined that the absentee voting process is the safest method. By sending an absentee application to all registered voters, it encourages voters to participate in the election in the safest manner possible without having to leave their house. Your ballot box is as close as your mailbox.”
Warner said that voters can expect to receive an absentee ballot application sometime during the week of April 6. Voters who have already requested or submitted an absentee application to their county clerk will be excluded from the mailing to prevent confusion and duplication, according to the release. However, the release also stated that there may be an overlap in requests and mailings by clerks due to natural postal delays, so any voter who receives more than one absentee application may disregard additional application mailings.
The release detailed some important deadlines that apply to the absentee ballot application and voting process, which are different than in-person voting. Those deadlines are:
- Absentee ballot applications must be received by the county clerk on, or before, May 6, 2020
- Absentee ballots must be postmarked by Election Day, May 12, 2020
Additionally, the release urged voters to remember the following key dates:
- Last day to register for the Primary Election – April 21
- Early in-person voting – April 29 to May 9
- Election Day – May 12
Secretary Warner and county clerks are recommending that voters return their applications as soon as possible, as this will help county clerks and their staff process the applications and place absentee ballots in the mail in a timely manner. The release stated that when voters receive their absentee ballot, it is also recommended that they return the ballot in a reasonable time to help facilitate the administration of the election and speed up the tabulation process after the election.