Early voting turnout low as absentee ballot request deadline approaches

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — With less than a week to go before West Virginia’s Primary Election, county clerks across the state are reporting low early voting numbers.

Kanawha County Clerk Vera McCormick told MetroNews Wednesday even in the state’s most populous county, not many voters have made it to the polls during the early voting period this week.

“Off years are always much slower,” McCormick said of this year’s midterm election. “It’s also a Primary Election.”

McCormick said most voters will cast ballots during the General Election in November.

“The Primary is a nomination of what candidate you want on the ballot in November. There are a lot of offices that are running unopposed,” she said.

Early numbers show more Democrats than Republicans are making their voices heard in Kanawha County.

“The Democrats have 1,239 votes,” McCormick said as of Wednesday morning. “Republicans have 852.”

In Marshall County, it’s also been “a very slow” start to the early voting season, according to Clerk Melanie Madden.

“We’ll usually get less than 100 (voters) per day. One day we only had 35. The most we had was 132,” Madden said since the start of early voting on April 27.

It’s a similar story in Hampshire County. Clerk Eric Strite said they’re not meeting their expectation of around 100 voters per day.

“It’s been fairly slow. We’ve been averaging about 40 people per day,” Strite said.

Madden also blamed the low turnout on many unopposed local races, unlike the state’s 2nd congressional district race between Republicans David McKinley and Alex Mooney.

“The majority of offices don’t have any opposition during this election,” she said. “A couple of the higher statewide or congressional do have opposition.”

Wednesday was the final day to request an absentee ballot from the Secretary of State’s Office. Applications can be hand-delivered, emailed, faxed or sent by U.S. Mail to the voter’s county clerk.

A complete list of eligibility requirements can be found here.

Absentee ballot requests are not nearly as much as they were compared to 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, Madden said. There were about 600 of those absentee ballots in Kanawha County, which McCormick said is about what they see during midterm Primary Election years.

During this May primary, non-affiliated voters have the option to request a nonpartisan ballot, or a partisan ballot of their choice at the polls.

The hope is that more voters will turn out this week and on Election Day, McCormick said.

“That’s their privilege and their right. That’s your voice. You need to get out and vote,” she said.

Early voting runs through Saturday.

The Primary Election is May 10.