Absentee Voting Available to Anyone During the Coronavirus Emergency

2020 General Election Information

Update 9/1/2020: Planning to Vote by Mail? Here’s What You Need to Know

All West Virginia voters have the option of voting absentee due to concerns about COVID-19. This is the safest option because you can vote from home. However, despite our efforts to make the process consistent with the primary, for the general election registered voters in most counties won’t be mailed an absentee ballot application. At this point, only voters in Lincoln and Ohio counties will be mailed absentee ballot applications. County clerks will begin mailing ballots to voters on September 18.

As things currently stand, here are your options for requesting an absentee ballot.

1). Request a ballot online using the Secretary of State’s absentee ballot application portal. While this is a welcome option for those voters who are able to use it, many voters in WV are not able to access it or are just not comfortable using it. Those voters can do one of the following:

2). Call or email your county clerk and ask them to mail an application to you; OR

3). Download and print an application and return it to your county clerk by mail or email.

To avoid potential delays, we highly recommend requesting your mail-in ballot as soon as possible, and as soon as you receive it, to complete and mail it in, to allow ample time for delivery and receipt of your ballot, so that your vote can be counted.

The last day to request an absentee ballot is October 28, although in a letter to the Secretary of State, the General Counsel for the USPS recommended voters submit their request early enough to be received 15 days before the election (October 19). The letter also recommended voters mail their completed ballots a week before the state’s due date. In West Virginia, ballots must be postmarked on or before election day (Tuesday, November 3), and be received by the start of canvassing on Monday, November 9.

If you don’t want to use the mail to return your ballot, the deadline to hand deliver ballots to your county clerk is Monday, November 2. (Please note that no person may hand deliver more than two absentee ballots and any person hand delivering an absentee ballot is required to certify that he or she has not examined or altered the ballot(s).

If you request an absentee ballot you can still vote in-person, either early or on election day, just be sure to take the absentee ballot with you so that it can be “spoiled” by a poll worker.

Important Election Dates and Deadlines

  • September 18, 2020 – County clerks will begin mailing out Absentee Ballots.
  • October 13, 2020 – Voter Registration Deadline
  • October 21 – October 31, 2020 – Early Voting at the county courthouse, annex or designated community voting location during normal business hours and Saturdays 9AM to 5PM.
  • October 28, 2020 – Deadline for Absentee Ballot Requests. Absentee ballot applications received after October 28, even if postmarked, cannot be accepted by law. 
  • November 2, 2020 – Deadline to hand-deliver Absentee Ballot to County Clerk’s office. Choose this option if you don’t want to use the mail to return your ballot.
  • November 3, 2020 – General Election Day
  • November 4, 2020 – Absentee Ballots mailed, but without a postmark accepted.
  • November 9, 2020 – (Canvass) – Absentee Ballot postmarked by Election Day accepted if received by start of Canvass.

For more voting information visit GoVoteWV.com. or see this FAQ for the General Election from the WV Secretary of State’s office. 

Update 8/8/2020:

West Virginians can request absentee ballots starting August 11

Update 8/7/2020: 

On July 27, the Secretary of State’s office confirmed that voters will be able to cite COVID-19 as a medical excuse to vote absentee in the upcoming election. 

In a press release, Secretary of State Mac Warner said, “West Virginia voters should never have to choose between their health and their right to vote. Let me be very clear. Any voter concerned about their health and safety because of COVID-19 will have the option to vote by absentee ballot.”

We wholeheartedly agree, and this is a welcome announcement. Giving all West Virginia voters the option to safely vote by absentee ballot in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is just and right. However, at this point we don’t know if the necessary executive orders and funding will be in place to mail applications to registered voters, as was done in the primary election. The latter was crucial to enabling voters to take advantage of this option in the primary, and West Virginia voters embraced absentee voting in large numbers, with half of voters choosing to cast their ballots safely from home. 

WV Citizens for Clean Elections is part of a coalition of voting rights advocates and community leaders calling on the governor, and state and local election officials to make the process consistent with the primary by mailing absentee ballot applications to all registered voters. Help us keep the pressure on by sending a letter to Governor Jim Justice and Secretary of State Mac Warner using this link: https://tinyurl.com/ProtectOurVoteWV 

We understand that voters will be able to request absentee ballots for the November election through an online portal beginning August 11, and that this option can help reduce opportunities for human errors and increase efficiency in the request process. While this is a welcome option, it will not help many older West Virginians or those without internet access. Mailing ballot applications to voters will keep the process consistent with the primary and create less confusion for voters. Receiving ballot applications will also likely result in higher voter participation. All registered voters should be mailed an absentee ballot application, along with information about alternative ways to request an absentee ballot, as well as in-person voting options.

The threat of COVID-19 is greater today than it was in June when West Virginia voters proved that voting by mail works. Like the coronavirus, the need to provide safe options for voters hasn’t gone away. Our democracy depends on fair and open elections and the health of our people. We can have both.

2020 Primary Election Information

Update 5/20/20:

Remember: Due to COVID-19, all West Virginia voters have the option to vote absentee. All registered voters should have received an absentee ballot application in the mail. This is the safest way to vote while protecting your health and the health of others. 

If you have not received an absentee ballot application, you should contact your county clerk right away.

If you requested your ballot but haven’t received it, check the absentee ballot tracking system to see if your ballot has been sent to you. If the request does not appear in the tracker within a week of submitting an absentee application, contact your county clerk. Your clerk must receive your application by June 3.

You can still vote in person if you choose. Check out the resources below to learn more about your voting options. If you request an absentee ballot but then choose to vote in person, be sure to take your absentee ballot with you for the poll worker to spoil. 

Additional Voting Information

A Pandemic Voter Guide For West Virginia’s 2020 Primary from WV Public Broadcasting (published 5/14/2020)

FAQ from the Secretary of State


Important Instructions for Absentee Ballots

Candidate Information 

WV Court Elections (Supreme Court): Three of the most important votes you will cast in the 2020 primary are your picks for the WV Supreme Court. Learn more about these important races and the candidates at https://www.wvcourtelections.org/.

Herald-Dispatch (US Senate – House of Reps – Governor – Attorney General – Commissioner of Ag – Auditor – Supreme Court): https://www.herald-dispatch.com/elections/wv_candidates/west-virginia-voter-information/article_d465d5cc-9f83-11e5-a1fd-475521e5c95b.html

League of Women Voters of WV – Statewide, plus some legislative and county offices:  https://lwvwv.org/voting-during-covid-19/#vote

Covid 19 Resources, Support & Volunteer Opportunities

RapidResponseWV.org – a joint effort of a growing number of nonprofit organizations and community leaders to support our neighbors through this crisis. 

Vote Together WV – Want to make friends, win prizes, and connect with your neighbors about voting safely in the era of COVID-19? Sign up here: http://tiny.cc/VoteTogetherWV

Wondering how the COVID-19 crisis will impact the West Virginia’s 2020 primary and judicial elections? Two weeks ago, the Secretary of State announced that every registered West Virginia voter is eligible to vote absentee during this public health emergency. This week, Governor Justice announced that he is using his emergency powers to delay the primary until June 9, past the anticipated peak of the coronavirus outbreak.

(Update 4/27/20: For more voting information check out this FAQ from the Secretary of State or visit GoVoteWV.com. It’s important for everyone to understand how important this election is and how to make their voices heard as safely as possible. Sign-up for the #VoteTogetherWV phone bank to help people vote in the era of COVID-19. Learn more here.)

In the meantime, county clerks are moving forward with plans to send an absentee ballot application to all registered voters unless they have already requested or submitted an application. The application will be in the form of a postcard that is specific to COVID-19 as the excuse to request a ballot. You can expect to receive the application in the mail in early to mid April. The Secretary of State and county clerks recommend that voters return their applications as soon as possible. Once your application is approved, the county clerk will mail you a postage prepaid absentee ballot with instructions. (Update 4/13/20: If you don’t receive an application in the mail by April 17, contact your county clerk or obtain an application online. More here and here. County clerks will begin mailing out the actual ballots on April 24.) 

We encourage you to avoid in person voting and take advantage of this option, as this is the safest way to vote while protecting your health and the health of others. Another way to to observe physical distancing precautions and help limit the number of people congregating at any one site at a given time is to early vote at a community voting location. Early voting is now scheduled to take place from May 27 – June 6. Because West Virginia was able to plan ahead, hopefully the election can take place without the confusion and disruptions that occurred in other states that held elections in March, as the outbreak began to worsen. However, we should anticipate another delay if the coronavirus outbreak has not abated or intensifies.

For things to go smoothly, new poll workers will be needed to help administer the election. You can help by contacting your county clerk and volunteering to serve as a poll worker, if you aren’t part of an more at-risk group (or living or caring for someone who is). To be prepared, we should also anticipate changes in polling locations, as well as longer waits with the additional measures that need to take place to ensure sanitation. With more people voting absentee, we also have to expect it to take longer to get the election results. 

One solution that would help ensure West Virginians are able to cast a ballot and protect their health in situations like this would be to adopt universal vote by mail. However, state elections officials say they don’t have the infrastructure or capacity to do this in advance of the primary. The Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act of 2020 would give every American the ability to vote by mail, by providing states with the resources they need to make this happen and ensure fair elections while protecting public health and safety. Contact Senators Manchin and Capito and urge passage of the The Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act of 2020.

You can also tell Congress we need funding to protect the 2020 Election from Covid-19 by signing this petition by our friends at the Brennan Center for Justice. 

No matter how you vote, we want to make sure you have the information you need to participate in our elections and to do so safely, so stay tuned to GoVoteWV.com for updates. WVCCE will also be posting updates on our Facebook page and website.

How to Request an Absentee Ballot:

NOTE: All registered voters will be mailed an absentee ballot application for the primary election. If you are registered, you do not have to request the application. It is automatically being mailed to you. Check your registration status at GoVoteWV.com. The Secretary of State says that voters can expect to receive an absentee ballot application in the mail starting the week of April 6. If you are not yet registered, register and request an absentee ballot using the instructions below.

1.Obtain the West Virginia Absentee Ballot Application:

  • Download and print the application from GoVoteWV.com; or

  • Call or email your county clerk to request the application be mailed to you (see county clerk directory at GoVoteWV.com for contact information)

2. Fill out the application in your own handwriting

  • Note: Make sure to check the first box for “Illness, injury or other medical reason which keeps me confined” in Section 4 of the application

3. Return the application to your county clerk by

  • Mail; or

  • Email; or

  • Fax

Note: Your county clerk must receive your application by June 3.

Voters may only apply and vote absentee in the county where they live. To make sure your registration is up-to-date, click “Check Your Voter Registration Record” at GoVoteWV.com.

Registered voters may request their absentee ballots from now until June 3.

The deadline to register to vote for the Primary Election is May 19 and can be completed at GoVoteWV.com.

Absentee ballots must be postmarked on or before election day (June 9), or hand-delivered the day before the election (June 8).

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