According to an August survey from Pew Research Center, almost half of Americans believe they will have difficulty casting a ballot in the Nov. 3 general election. The same study says 84% of registered voters say it really matters who wins the presidency, up 74% from the 2016 presidential election.
Enthusiasm for the election is high, but so is uncertainty, due to the challenges created by the pandemic. Here is a detailed guide on how to make sure your vote is counted in West Virginia.
Are you registered to vote?
You can quickly check if you’re registered to vote in West Virginia by going to the ”GoVoteWV” page on the West Virginia Secretary of State’s website, then clicking the “Check Your Voter Registration Record” box and entering your name and birth date. This will also show your polling place.
Your registration will show either an active, inactive or cancelled status. Voters whose registration is inactive may still vote. There are specific directions on the page to follow if your registration is cancelled.
If you are not registered to vote in the state, the “GoVoteWV” page has a link to follow to apply.
In the past two years, 188,999 West Virginians have been purged from voter rolls; it is important to ensure you have an active status. Changing your name or moving to a different town or county in West Virginia may require you to update your registration.
If you want to change your party affiliation, you must update your registration. The voter registration deadline is Oct. 13.
How can I vote?
There are three ways to vote. You can cast a ballot on Election Day, cast a ballot during the early voting period or vote using a mail-in ballot.
If you want to vote in person, the Centers for Disease Control recommends voting early as the safest possible option. You can vote early in West Virginia from Oct. 21 until Oct. 31. Call your county clerk’s office or visit their website to find your early polling place.
On Election Day, Nov. 3, polls are open in West Virginia from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. If you are in line when the clock hits 7:30 p.m., stay in line, because you will still be eligible to cast a ballot.
The deadline to submit an application for an absentee ballot, also called a mail-in ballot, is Oct. 28. Absentee applications received after Oct. 28, even if postmarked, cannot be accepted by law.
The United States Postal Service recommends if you’re voting by mail, submit your ballot at least one week earlier than the deadline to avoid delays.
You will receive notification by mail when your application has been processed by your county clerk. Call your county clerk if you have questions about your application.
Once your application has been processed, you will receive your ballot in the mail. The ballot will contain specific instructions on how to complete it and then mail the ballot in.
Mistakes like using the wrong color pen or forgetting to sign the outside of the return envelope could mean your vote isn’t counted.
Editor's note: A previous version of this story implied inactive voters could not vote. Voters whose registration is inactive may vote.