West Virginia primary pushed back to June 9 due to COVID-19
Update: 4/1/2020 6:30 P.M.
West Virginia officials say they want as many people to go to the polls on the day of the primary as possible. But at the same time, they say the postponement of the state primary to June 9 encourages absentee voting.
"We have opened up this opportunity for absentee ballots, for anyone in the state that is concerned about the virus," Secretary of State Mac Warner said Wednesday, "so they can vote the absentee process."
In Wood County, people have been requesting absentee ballots at a rate far beyond normal-or what election administrators thought possible just a few weeks ago.
"The last primary election, on the first day, we only mailed out 170," says County Clerk Mark Rhodes. "I expect that number will go up because we're just now mailing out the applications to people. They still have to fill out an application saying they want an absentee ballot."
Governor Jim Justice still hopes people will go to the polls in record numbers. But if Rhodes' comments are any indication, it may be tough finding poll workers, many of whom tend to be older, even for a date now set for June.
"A third of the poll worker slips, they said they would work with a question mark on it," Rhodes says. "Those question marks, from the phone calls I got, have been 'no, I'm not going to work'. If we don't have poll workers, we can't hold an election."
Gov. Jim Justice has rescheduled West Virginia's May 12 primary election to June 9.
He cites fears about the coronavirus spreading at polling places.
Justice said medical experts told him that having the primary on its originally scheduled date would be unsafe for voters and poll workers.
He says "There is no question moving this date is the right thing to do," Secretary of State Mac Warner has mailed absentee ballot applications to registered voters, seeking to increase mail-in voting.
He said deadlines on those applications as well as the early voting period will be extended.