Beginning Tuesday, West Virginians may apply for an absentee mail-in ballot to vote in the 2020 general election.
The election is 84 days away, and all registered voters in West Virginia may vote absentee this election cycle, because of an extension of an emergency rule that relaxed the qualification to use an absentee ballot during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The biggest difference between this year’s general election, on Nov. 3, and the June primary is that voters must request a ballot from their county clerk’s office.
All but eight states will allow some form of mail-in voting during the pandemic, according to a report from The Washington Post.
During the weeks leading up the primary election in West Virginia, the Secretary of State’s Office mailed out postcard applications to all registered voters in the state. Applications will not automatically be mailed out this time, so voters must request a ballot for the November election, even if they voted by mail in June.
Voters still will have access to early voting at their respective county clerks’ offices and have the opportunity to vote at their local polling places during the general election cycle.
Almost half of the ballots cast in West Virginia’s primary election were done so through the absentee-by-mail process, according to a post-election report from Secretary of State Mac Warner.
In a typical election year, about 2% of ballots cast in a primary election are absentee, according to the report.
On July 27, Warner announced that all West Virginians qualify to vote absentee-by-mail during the general election because of concern about spreading or contracting COVID-19.
People who aren’t registered to vote have until Oct. 13 to register. West Virginians may do so online on the secretary of state’s website.
Registered voters have a few options to request an application to vote absentee-by-mail. They may request the application by getting in touch with their local county clerk’s office by phone, fax or regular mail and asking for the application. A copy of the application also is available on the secretary of state’s website for voters to print, fill out and mail to their county clerk.
The secretary of state’s website will have an online portal that voters may use to request their absentee ballot, Warner said last month. The portal is set to launch Tuesday.
On the application to get an absentee ballot, voters with COVID-19 concerns may check the box that says “Illness, injury or other medical reason which keeps me confined (includes concerns of COVID-19)” in the “Eligibility” section of the application.
The application to receive an absentee ballot must be received by your local county clerk’s office by Oct. 28.
Postmark date is not a factor in the absentee ballot application. If a voter’s application is not in the possession of staff at the clerk’s office by the end of the business day Oct. 28, that voter will not be eligible to receive an absentee-by-mail ballot.
Once voters have received and filled out their ballots, they have the option to return absentee ballots to their local clerk’s office by Nov. 2.
Those voting by mail must send out their ballots by Election Day, Nov. 3. Ballots that are postmarked for Nov. 3 and arrive to their county clerk’s offices before vote canvassing begins on Nov. 9 can be accepted by county clerks.