Wood County Clerk mostly opposes proposed legislative election changes

WTAP News @ 5 - Wood County Clerk skeptical about proposed election changes
Published: Mar. 3, 2021 at 3:30 PM EST
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PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) - Wood County’s clerk is skeptical about a bill introduced Tuesday making changes in West Virginia’s elections process.

The bill includes expanding mail-in absentee voting to all registered voters, extending the early voting period by an additional week, and requiring drop boxes for voters wanting to drop off rather than mail ballots.

For several years, early voting in West Virginia has been held in the 10 days prior to the election. The bill introduced Tuesday would extend that to 18. Neighboring Ohio opens early voting nearly a month before primaries and elections.

Wood County’s commission pushed for drop boxes for the 2020 November election, but there was no law requiring them in West Virginia.

Wood County Clerk Mark Rhodes says, if changes take place, especially involving absentee ballots, consolidation of voter precincts should also be considered.

”Let us use what we did in the primary with electronic poll books,” Rhodes says, “and have a larger precinct location, with less precincts. If not, we’re going to have precincts that have 30 voters come through in a day’s time, if everybody’s going to absentee ballot.”

Precincts in Wood County for the 2020 primary, delayed from May to June, were trimmed to five from the normal 69.

Proposed changes also include allowing until election day for absentee ballots to be turned in. That deadline is now the day before the election.

Also proposed: moving back a week the date of the post-election canvass.

The bill, introduced by a group of House Democrats, is modeled after changes brought on last year during the pandemic.

Rhodes agrees the changes were necessary for the 2020 election, but, overall, West Virginia’s election laws still work the way they are currently written and administered.

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