WV turns out for first day of early voting

KENNY KEMP | Gazette-Mail photos
Charleston resident and military veteran John Bell said he votes early because he volunteers at the polls on Election Day.
Hundreds of people turned out for the first day of early voting at the Kanawha County voter registration office.

A Steady current of people made their way to Kanawha County’s voter registration office on Wednesday for the first day of early voting in West Virginia.

Kanawha County Clerk Vera McCormick said at least 500 people voted as of late Wednesday morning — and there were no signs of slowing down.

“I think it’s going to stay this way for the rest of the day,” McCormick said. “I believe the public is interested. This election has been going on for 15 months.”

Nearly 1,300 people voted on the first day of early voting for the 2012 election. More than 13,300 people voted early during that election, McCormick said.

She predicted that at least 10,000 people will turn out for early voting this year.

Many of the folks who voted early Wednesday do so for every election. Among them was Charleston resident John Bell, who said he votes early because he volunteers at the polls on Election Day.

“I’ve been working [the polls] since I got out of the military in 1968,” he said.

Bell said he takes voting seriously, due in part to his family members who died while serving in the military.

“My brother gave up his life ... for the right to vote,” he said. “So when I hear someone tell me, ‘I’m not gonna vote,’ I get really upset.”

This is the first year West Virginians can’t vote a straight ticket, meaning they no longer can check one box to vote party-line down the ballot.

Bell, a Republican, said he likes it better this way.

While he mostly voted his party ticket, “there’s one guy that’s a friend of mine [who’s] a Democrat, and I voted for him,” Bell said.

Resident Eli Rouse said he votes early because it’s “a lot easier” than dealing with potentially long lines on Election Day.

Rouse, a Democrat, doesn’t like that voting the straight ticket is no longer an option.

“If we can get control of the House and Senate, I think that’s one of the first things they’re going to put back in,” he said.

“We need to get rid of the carpetbaggers,” Rouse added, flashing a button from under his jacket with the words, “Vote, Dammit!”

As of Sept. 30, there were 139,653 registered voters in Kanawha County.

Democrats made up 66,043 of voters, while Republications comprised 40,642.

More than 30,200 voters have no party affiliation, while 219 are registered with the Mountain Party. Another 2,059 voters fall under “other.”

More than 150,000 of West Virginia’s roughly 1.2 million voters cast early ballots in the 2012 election. More than 97,000 voted early in the 2014 election.

There weren’t any reported issues or complications in Kanawha County or the Secretary of State’s Office on Wednesday.

Early voting will be open at the Kanawha County voter registration office, 415 Quarrier St., from Wednesday until Nov. 5. Weekday voting hours are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. Voting is closed on Sunday.

Reach Elaina Sauber at elaina.sauber@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-3051 or follow @ElainaSauber on Twitter.

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