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Primary Election turnout is anyone’s guess

One of the keys to elections is turnout; just how many voters are motivated to cast their ballot for their favorite candidate or candidates.

Predicting turnout is tricky because of a variety of factors—level of interest in races, the weather on Election Day, candidates’ efforts to get out the vote.

Often, historical trends have provided some guidance. For example, the turnout in a presidential election year is typically greater than an off-year election.

But for this Primary Election?  Who knows?

The pandemic significantly changed this election cycle. For weeks, candidates pulled back their campaigns.  For most candidates, it just did not feel right during the shutdown to ask people to also think about politics.

Which brings us to the next unknown. With a virus health threat, the economic shutdown, and massive layoffs, people have not had much emotional energy to consider who to vote for.

Postponing the Primary Election for a month has helped.  The flattening of the virus curve and the reopening of the economy have allowed politics to come back into the news cycle.

The no-excuse absentee voting is a huge curve ball for this election.  As of Tuesday, county clerks had sent out nearly 250,000 absentee ballots and received 144,000 completed ballots.  If roughly the same number of individuals vote in this election as did in the 2016 Primary, the number of absentee ballot votes already represents 30 percent of the vote.

Who are all these absentee voters? Are they voters who were motivated by the ground game or media ads of a particular candidate?  Maybe some non-traditional voters who have been drawn into the process by the convenience of absentee voting?  If so, that could boost turnout.

Or are they mostly people who always vote and are just taking advantage of no-excuse absentee? If that is the case, turnout may end up being at or even below what it was in 2016—40 percent.

The 40 percent turnout in 2016 was high for West Virginia.  The Primary Election in the 2012 presidential election year only brought out 27 percent of voters.

Four years ago, Primary Election turnout here was boosted by the presidential race.  Neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton had secured their party’s nomination in early May, although each had emerged as a clear front runner.

Trump campaigned in the Mountain State and drew 157,000 votes among Republicans and Independents, while Bernie Sanders supporters turned out en masse to give him nearly 125,000 votes to Clinton’s 87,000.

Trump and Joe Biden have the nominations locked up. Their supporters may still want to make sure they vote for their nominee, but it is not as though the outcome of the presidential nomination process is in question.

So, what will the turnout be when all the votes are counted?

Notably, that brings up another unknown about this election.  Clerks must count tens of thousands of absentee ballots, which could delay the results.  Additionally, changes in the election may produce more challenged ballots than usual, which must be reviewed by county commissions sitting as boards of canvassers.

All these factors add up to an election like no other in West Virginia.


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Multiple counties under flash flood watch as Bertha heads toward West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Several West Virginia counties are under a flash flood watch as parts of Tropical Storm Bertha move across West Virginia.

The flash flood watch from the National Weather Service goes into effect at 11 p.m. Wednesday and remains in effect until 7 a.m. Thursday.

National Weather Service

The flash flood watch goes into effect at 11 p.m. Wednesday.

“The remnants of Tropical Storm Bertha will move north across West Virginia tonight,” the agency said. “This will result in a surge of deep tropical moisture across the area and allow for a period of locally heavy rainfall.”

The watch affects Boone, Braxton, Calhoun, Clay, Doddridge, Gilmer, Jackson, Kanawha, Lewis, McDowell, Ritchie, Roane, Wirt and Wyoming counties, as well as northwest and southeast portions of Fayette, Nicholas, Raleigh and Webster counties.

Portions of the impacted area could expect between 1 and 2 inches of rain.

“The combination of the heavy rainfall occurring in a relatively short amount of time, and falling on already wet soils, may result in flash flooding overnight,” the National Weather Service added.

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Manchin, Capito push for Williams to receive Medal of Freedom

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., are part of a group of senators asking President Donald Trump to award a West Virginia native the Medal of Freedom.

The senators, alongside Republicans Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, wrote a letter Wednesday detailing their support for awarding Hershel “Woody” Williams the honor recognizing his advocacy on behalf of Gold Star families.

The Medal of Freedom is the country’s highest civilian honor.


Medal of Honor recipient Woody Williams

Williams, a Harrison County native, is one of the last two living Medal of Honor recipients from World War II. He took part in the Battle of Iwo Jima, in which his efforts earned him the Medal of Honor.

Williams, through his foundation, has pushed for monuments recognizing families whose loved ones have died while serving. Sixty such monuments currently exist with plans for more than 70 additional memorials in place.

“These achievements and many more illustrate a legacy that warrants recognition at the highest level. We sincerely appreciate your consideration of Woody Williams’ legacy,” the senators said.

The state Capitol grounds will be the location of a future Gold Star Families Monument. The project’s completion has been delayed because of difficulties securing materials and the coronavirus pandemic.

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Concord reducing workforce by around 10%

ATHENS, W.Va. — The Concord University Board of Governors on Wednesday approved reducing the university’s workforce by less than 10% — around 30 workers — as the university is going through a difficult financial period.

The university cited declining enrollment, insufficient revenue numbers, unavailable funding and costs related to the coronavirus pandemic as reasons behind the decision.

Institution president Kendra Boggess told MetroNews the reduction will not be through solely terminating employees; she estimated around half of the reduction will be through attrition.

“As every year, we have people that decide they’re not going to come back,” she said.

“We’re looking to make sure that Concord is going to be here, it’s going to be successful and it’s going to be able to serve our students. That’s our goal, that’s always been our goal, and it’s our mission.”

Boggess noted the difficulties in laying off people amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s not something you ever want to do, but it’s something we have to do because our responsibility is to the state and to our region and to our students first,” she said. “We’re going to make sure that all students are well taken care of. To me, that’s the most important part of all of this.”

Boggess said the cuts will come from programs “that have not been as particularly strong” as others.

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West Virginia approaches 1,900 coronavirus cases

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia is on the verge of reaching 1,900 confirmed coronavirus cases following additional numbers reported Wednesday evening.

According to the state Department of Health and Human Resources, 1,899 cases have come back positive out of 89,460 tests. Seventy-four West Virginians have died.

The daily coronavirus rate from Tuesday evening to Wednesday evening fell from 7.11% to 3.19%. The cumulate rate is 2.12%.

The department also released new numbers about confirmed cases and probable cases in each county:

Barbour (9/0), Berkeley (286/11), Boone (9/0), Braxton (2/0), Brooke (4/0), Cabell (58/2), Calhoun (2/0), Clay (2/0), Fayette (47/0), Gilmer (10/0), Grant (10/1), Greenbrier (9/0), Hampshire (23/0), Hancock (15/2), Hardy (38/0), Harrison (39/1), Jackson (135/0), Jefferson (164/3), Kanawha (214/2), Lewis (6/0), Lincoln (5/0), Logan (16/0), Marion (51/0), Marshall (28/0), Mason (15/0), McDowell (6/0), Mercer (13/0), Mineral (39/2), Mingo (5/1), Monongalia (121/8), Monroe (6/1), Morgan (17/1), Nicholas (10/0), Ohio (41/0), Pendleton (9/1), Pleasants (4/1), Pocahontas (16/1), Preston (17/5), Putnam (33/0), Raleigh (15/1), Randolph (104/0), Ritchie (1/0), Roane (10/0), Summers (1/0), Taylor (9/0), Tucker (4/0), Tyler (3/0), Upshur (6/1), Wayne (97/0), Wetzel (9/0), Wirt (4/0), Wood (51/3) and Wyoming (3/0).

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Census office reopened in Beckley; workers back in the field

BECKLEY, W.Va. — The U.S. Census field office in Beckley has reopened after weeks of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Assistant Director for Communications for the U.S. Census Stephen Buckner appeared on Wednesday’s MetroNews ‘Talkline’ and discussed what Census workers can do now in that area.

Buckner said workers can deliver the Census questionnaire packets to the doors of P.O. Box or non-city style addresses in the southern portion of the state.

US Census

Stephen Buckner

“That operation was suspended as COVID hit right at the beginning of April. We had to wait until it was safe to go back out there and deliver it, much like an Amazon package or mail,” Buckner said.

“Then our Census worker would also have a laptop and update that address in our system to make sure we have an accurate count.”

The Census workers are only dropping off the packets but may start to knock on doors beginning the second week of August. Buckner said that’s only if the questionnaire is not filled out.

Around 290,000 questionnaires have been delivered, according to Buckner. He said when workers go out in August, all safety guidelines will be taken.

“All Census workers will have CDC training on how to interact with the public to make sure that we are not putting the public or our staff at risk. They’ll have face masks and gloves but only use them if that is what the local health authorities tell you to do because it varies by jurisdiction,” Buckner said.

Assistant Director for Communications for the U.S. Census @stephen_buckner joins @HoppyKercheval to discuss the opening of a Census field office in WV. WATCH:

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) May 27, 2020

West Virginia has a response rate of 47.7 percent, around 13 percent below the United States response rate. Counties in the Beckley area including McDowell, Summers, Wyoming, and Mingo are at the bottom of the state response rate for the 2020 Census.

Buckner noted how crucial it is to self-report during this time period. The deadline for all responses for the Census has been pushed to Oct. 31 due to the virus.

“It saves the taxpayer money because it’s a lot less expensive to collect data when you self-respond versus having to send somebody to your door,” he said.

“It’s also really important. It’s written in the Constitution, it helps gets your political representation in Congress but also means hundreds of billions of dollars back to local and state governments for social service programs.”

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Crouch: Medical marijuana looking at Spring 2021 start date

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch said it will be next year before medical marijuana can be offered to state residents through a state-run program.

Bill Crouch

“We’ve sped this up as much as possible and we’re looking at actually making the product available in Spring 2021,” Crouch said Wednesday when he spoke during Gov. Jim Justice’s coronavirus media briefing at the state capitol.

The Medical Cannabis Act, approved by state lawmakers in 2017, allows cannabis to be used for certified medical use by state residents with a serious medical condition. The law allows for 10 grower permits, 10 processor permits, up to 100 dispensary permits and unlimited lab permits. The state Office of Medical Cannabis received 285 total permit applications in February.

Crouch said Wednesday the review of the growers and processor applications has been completed and the 30-day response period for applicants is approaching its deadline. He said the review of dispensary permits, which takes a little longer, continues.

Crouch said the office has worked during the pandemic with the goal of “providing eligible state residents with the ability to procure quality tested medical cannabis as soon as possible.”

State lawmakers passed a follow-up law to the 2017 act that allows applicants to apply for permits in different categories.

The Office of Medical Cannabis announced Tuesday that it will begin accepting physician registrations for the program on Thursday.

Doctors must complete a registration application and complete a four-hour education course online.

“Physician registration and training are essential steps to make medical cannabis available to West Virginians with serious medical conditions,” office director Jason Frame said.

The registration period for physicians is indefinite.

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Three Guys Before The Game – Oregon Athletic Director Rob Mullens

He may live and work nearly three thousand miles from Morgantown, but Rob Mullens’ heart will never leave West Virginia.

On the verge of becoming the longest tenured athletic director in the Pac-12 Conference, Mullens joins Brad Howe and Tony Caridi for a conversation on a number of topics.

The “Guys” discuss the challenges of COVID-19 facing the Pac-12 along with Mullens’ role as chairman of the College Football Playoff selection committee.

They also track his rise from a student at WVU to overseeing one of the nation’s most popular and successful athletic programs.

Join the “Guys” again next week as they visit with former WVU quarterback Jake Kelchner.

Text or leave a voicemail for the show anytime at 304-404-4083.

Look super cool by wearing Three Guys merchandise.

Never miss an episode, subscribe below.

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Yeager Airport seeing turnaround in passenger numbers after record lows

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Following record-low enplanement numbers during parts of April, Yeager Airport is seeing a turnaround in passengers flying at the Charleston facility.

In mid-April, the airport was sitting at a 95 percent passenger decline with 15 to 30 people flying per day and two to five flights taking off a day as the COVID-19 pandemic swept the country.

Following the airport’s monthly board meeting on Wednesday, Airport Director Nick Keller told MetroNews that days in May have varied between 80 and 90 people flying a day with Saturday, May 23 hitting 155 passengers.

Keller said the airport still has a long way to go in recovering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic as the normal average for this time of the year is over 700 passengers per day.

Nick Keller

“It’s great to see the numbers going back up. With all the cleanings going in airports and on airplanes, I do not think flying is unsafe. So I think people are ready to travel, especially this summer. Hopefully, we continue to see an increase,” he said.

The revenue numbers in April reflected the lows of enplanements as Keller said the airport suffered a loss of about $380,000 in revenue compared to the budgeted amount. That number was better than what the board estimated at its April board meeting of up to $800,000.

Keller told MetroNews he predicts another revenue loss in May but better numbers in the summer months. The airport is currently putting together its budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, and preparing for a slow rebound.

“We’ve cut over $700,000 in our budget for next fiscal year. We’ve eliminated some positions that were open and unfilled. We are just trying to take prudent actions and be conservative in our planning. We will use the CARES money we received from the FAA to backfill any losses projected in our budget,” Keller said.

Keller said members are predicting a passenger count around a fifth of normal operation and it will be reflected in the budget. He said it could take up to two years for the airport to get back to normal averages with enplanements.

“For our next budget year, we are planning to have only 20 to 25 percent of our normal passenger count. That’s to be conservative because we just don’t know,” Keller said.

“If there is another wave of the virus that causes confidence to decline in travel and quarantine then we just don’t know.”

During the April board meeting, the board accepted the CARES Act grant funding through the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) which totaled $4,810,956. The airport has not had to lay off any employees and has used part of the CARES Act money to give hourly workers a “Hero Pay” bonus.

Operations are getting back to normal as Keller said the Capital Jet Center plans to have normal employee rotations next week. The maintenance staff at the airport is working in day-night shifts to avoid being all together.

Following the meeting on Wednesday, the airport announced the Spirit Airlines seasonal service from Yeager to Myrtle Beach International Airport will resume on July 2. The flight was scheduled to start in April but was pushed back due to COVID-19 and related travel restrictions.

The flights are currently scheduled to operate on Thursdays and Sundays through September 6th.

Keller expects the Spirit flight to Orlando to come back to three days a week soon, along with other flights that were lost due to the virus as airlines across the country begin to rebound.

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Appalachian Power looks for cause of underground fire in Bluefield

BLUEFIELD, W.Va. — A problem in the underground electrical system in downtown Bluefield Wednesday morning caused a series of explosions and heavy smoke.

Appalachian Power Company spokesman Phil Moye said the system experienced a fault and safety measured kicked in.

“We had a fault condition that our system sensed and that’s what caused the outage,” Moye said.

The Bluefield Fire Department was dispatched to Bland Street after a report of an explosion and smoke coming out of a manhole. Soon after their arrival, firemen reported two more underground explosions.

“That’s alarming if you see smoke coming out of a vault but it’s something we’re on top of,” Moye said.

There was no immediate word on what caused the original fault. Moye said Appalachian Power crews were waiting for water to be pumped out of the vault so they could take a closer look.

“It’s a very reliable system but when we do have a problem with it sometimes it’s just difficult to access,” Moye said.

There were no injuries reported.



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