Missed deadline means Kanawha must scrap plans for extra early voting spot

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Kanawha County officials missed a key deadline to make an official decision to establish a secondary early voting site on Charleston’s West Side, the Secretary of State’s Office has concluded.

Kanawha County officials had proposed a community voting location on Charleston’s West Side to alleviate congestion at the main early balloting site at the downtown Voters Registration Office. The proposed site was the Girl Scouts of Black Diamond Council Building at 321 Virginia St. West, Charleston.

Much of the debate over the secondary voting site has been over access and who gets to decide, but the issue wound up being settled by the calendar.

In a letter sent this afternoon by Secretary of State Mac Warner, the office advised that Kanawha County would violate an elections rule by failing to approve early voting at the second Charleston location no less than 90 days prior to Election Day.

For the May 10 primary, that would have been Feb. 9.

Instead, the Secretary of State’s Office concluded, Kanawha County officials rolled out and discussed the possibility over a period of weeks, with commission votes on the issue taking place Feb. 17 and March 27.

That timeline was the focus of an hour-long meeting of the State Elections Commission today.

“After consultation with the SEC and receiving a formal opinion by the Attorney General that the deadlines set forth in 153 CSR 13 retain the full force and effect of law, it is clear that the Kanawha County Commission’s approval of the additional early voting location at the Girl Scouts of Black Diamond Council building is in violation of the lawful deadline,” Warner wrote.

Kanawha officials said they are disappointed but will comply.

“The SOS decision is disappointing and frankly not in the best interest of the voting public,” members of the Kanawha County Commission stated.

“Nonetheless, the Kanawha County Commission will abide by the Secretary of State’s decision even though we disagree. We intend to make every effort to allow the public to vote at this location in the General Election this November.”