West Virginia election officials focused on COVID-19 safety protocols

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MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (WDVM) — With just a few weeks to go until election day, West Virginia officials are doing their best to make sure polling places are compliant with COVID-19 protocols.

West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner pulled out all the stops Friday to assure voters it will be safe to go the polls. But there are subtexts of ballot counting irregularities from the primary, and Secretary Warner’s challenger next month being in town Friday with the election just around the corner.

Warner met with clerks who will be staffing the polls, and health department personnel who are helping with safety standards at the Berkeley County precinct locations. He took time at the county courthouse to assure that all runs smoothly on November 3rd.

“We will be practicing safe distancing,” says Warner. “We’ve got all the personal protective equipment in place, the hand sanitizer, gloves, face masks, face shields, and the marks on the ground to keep people socially distancing.”

Warner’s commitment is backed by county health officials.

“You want to keep your distance, wear your mask, be in the fresh air if you can while you’re waiting,” says Dr. Terrence Reidy, health officer for Berkeley County and the eastern panhandle.

Says Bill Kearns, health department director, “all the measures that we’re putting in place are going to keep people safe when they come out to vote.”

As for those ballots that were double-counted in the primary? Well, that’s been addressed.
Says Darrell Shull, chief deputy clerk for elections, that snafu “resulted in outputting additional safety measures in place, precautions and procedures to make certain that an error like that doesn’t repeat itself.”

The double counting is a reason Secretary Warner is being challenged by his predecessor, Natalie Tenant, who was also in Martinsburg rolling into the fall weekend, just weeks before election day.

“We need to get innovation back in the secretary of state’s office,” Tenant told a crowd of supporters in Martinsburg’s town square today.

The bottom line, though, is in the hands of voters themselves.

Says Judy Dehaven of Martinsburg, “you should try to make every effort to vote and let your voice be heard.”

And Democrat tenant, who pulled down the Libertarian Party endorsement Friday too, is crying foul that an employee in Secretary Warner’s office, who moonlights as a Charleston radio talk show host, had Warner on as a guest without disclosing the relationship. Warner says it was all on the up-and-up. Never a dull moment on the campaign trail. And early voting starts Wednesday and goes for the next 10 days.

And here’s a fast fact: election officials have ordered 45,000 pencils to distribute to polling sites around the state to prevent the spread of infection by re-using the same writing instrument.

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