West Virginia county clerk’s offices preparing for the upcoming May 10 primary election have faced an additional curveball this year thanks to redistricting by West Virginia lawmakers.
The redistricting is done every 10 years using the results of the federal census. Clerks say the reshuffling of district lines, primarily in the West Virginia House of Delegates, which went from 67 single-member and multi-member districts to 100 single-member districts, also resulted in the shuffling of precincts.
All voters affected by the redrawn precincts should receive a letter in the mail from their respective county clerk’s office with a new voter registration card showing their new precinct and polling place.
Those who do not receive a letter should assume that their polling place and constituency are the same as in previous years.
However, this is much easier said than done.
In Raleigh County, Tammy Richardson, director of elections for the Raleigh County Clerk’s Office, said the county has shrunk from 87 precincts to 58.
“It was due to the house lines because 10 years ago they had 63 constituencies and they had to go up to 87 because of the house lines and the way they cut it out” , she said. “So this time we have to go back to where we were before because they brought us together a bit more.”
While unsure of the exact amount, Richardson said fewer precincts will result in a lighter bill for the county.
To notify those affected by the precinct changes, Richardson said his office drafted more than 80 form letters to send to thousands of registered voters notifying them of changes to their precinct, House delegate district or instead of voting.
For those with a different precinct number or polling location, Richardson said a new voter registration card was mailed with the letter.
While their office and others across the state work through the same process of notifying voters of any changes, Richardson asks voters to be patient and understanding.
Raleigh County Clerk’s Office Chief Assistant Becky Fernatt said the Raleigh County voter in Precincts 1, 2 and 13 should expect to receive a second letter from their office after an initial letter sent to voters in those ridings this week contained an error.
At the bottom of the letter, a sentence read: “Your new voter card is attached”.
However, Fernatt said no changes were made to these constituency numbers, so this sentence should have been omitted. There was no map.
“They didn’t need to get a new card and that’s really what the letter should have said, but it didn’t,” she said. “So I took it upon myself to correct that letter and say, give me some grace because the redrawing was a mess.
“It breaks my heart that we sent this letter because we have no intention of providing miscommunication.”
on a roll
In Greenbrier County, Jason Morgan, the deputy election clerk, said the redistricting process was confusing at first for everyone involved.
“On the first recut, it was kind of a confusing thing for everyone involved,” he said. “But we kind of all bonded and pretty much everything is on a roll now.”
Morgan said he doesn’t know how many precincts were changed in Greenbrier County due to redistricting, but because the House used US 219 as the dividing line to divide the county in two, there are had several.
“A good part of the west end (the compound) was hit,” he said. “I know we personally changed about 5,000 voters. These are the ones we had to change and release new cards.
Morgan said letters with new voter registration cards began going out this week.
He said they also spent this week preparing to mail out mail-in ballots to military personnel and overseas voters.
Make a plan
Michelle Holly, the Fayette County Clerk, said her office is executing similar plans and recommends people come up with a plan to vote before Election Day.
“The right to vote is our most fundamental and basic right,” she said. “It is the right from which all our other constitutional rights flow. By planning to vote, checking if you are registered and knowing where you are voting, all voters can participate in this important civic duty. I am proud of the work done by our office to make documents more transparent and easily accessible online. We look forward to a safe, secure and successful primary election. »
Holly said nearly half of Fayette County voters experienced some type of change as a result of the redistricting.
She said letters were still being mailed out notifying Fayette County voters of the changes.
“A lot of people got a new (voter registration) card, but there will still be people who still get them,” Holly said. “They will definitely get them before the primary and hopefully within the next two weeks, which is even well before early voting.”
Richardson said the process of changing electoral districts is a long and cumbersome process that has been made a little more difficult by a new state voter registration system from the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office.
“We just got a new system in August, and they’re still fixing bugs,” she said.
With changes to new precincts approved by the Raleigh County Commission in January, Richardson said he began preparing new voter registration cards in early March.
She said the process begins with researching precincts through their computer system and making necessary changes to reflect new districts and precincts.
From there, new voter registration cards are printed. A portion of these cards are kept at the voter registration office while the other half is torn up, signed, laminated, attached to a letter, and mailed to the voter.
Richardson said they then go through the process of matching old voter registration cards they had on file with the new ones.
She said it helps ensure every voter is considered.
“It’s a long process; it’s a timely process,” Richardson said. “And we’re trying to do all the checks and balances to make sure we’re sending them out correctly.”
Fernatt said he received several calls from constituents who received the letter containing the error and did their best to answer any questions.
“We understand people will always have a lot of questions when it comes to the election and honestly, we’d love to hear them,” Fernatt said. “We would honestly prefer them to call the office with their questions because really, we’re here for them, 100 per cent.”
Raleigh County voters with questions can call the voter registration officer at 304-252-8681. For Fayette County the number is 304-574-4226 and in Greenbrier County the number is 304-647-6602.
Information regarding polling stations, voter registration status and more is also available at govotewv.comwhich is a site managed by the WVSOS.
Important dates for the May 10 primary election
now through May 4: Absentee Candidacy Period – eligible absentee voters can send a request to vote by mail to their county clerk. Instructions for requesting an absentee ballot can be found at govotewv.com.
March 25: County clerks begin sending mail-in ballots
April 19: Deadline for voter registration
April 27 to May 7: early voting in person
May 3 until noon May 10: Receive emergency postal vote requests
May 4: Deadline for postal vote requests
May 7: deadline for advance voting in person
May 9: Deadline for mail-in ballots delivered by hand to the Clerk’s Office
May 10: election day
May 10: Absentee ballots received electronically from eligible voters are accepted
For more information on the upcoming elections, go to govotewv.com. West Virginia residents can also register to vote or change their current registration on this site.