West Virginia finds technology may present some challenges in staging elections this fall

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CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. (WDVM) — West Virginia election officials are facing a number of challenges as the pandemic has changed so many of the voting procedures from past years.

New technology is supposed to make it easier to cast your ballot. But is that really the case?

Like everything else these past few months, the coronavirus is changing the rules. And that applies to the way we cast our ballots this election year. Nikki Painter is Jefferson County’s chief deputy elections clerk and is helping voters adjust to a new online portal system introduced by West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner for casting ballots online. And while many voters are not having trouble with the new technology, Painter says, there are some hurdles.

“Some voters are having difficulty signing because you have to either use your mouse or if you’re using your phone or an I-pad you can use your finger,” says Painter, “so some voters are finding some difficulty.”

But former West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, Warner’s opponent this fall, says the Mountain State is struggling to deliver broadband to every community and that disenfranchises voters. Furthermore, she says, voters seeking to cast their ballots by mail are being met with resistance from Warner. That on top of the raging national debate about whether the U.S. Postal Service is equipped to get ballots to election officials in a timely manner.

“He’s [Warner] spent more than $100,000 on a portal that doesn’t work properly and that not all the voters can use,” says Tennant. “So that’s a barrier. He refuses to send out the applications to the voters so that’s a barrier. And when the county clerks want to send them out themselves, he refuses to pay for it. That’s a barrier.”

And Painter says if you’re voting by mail, the ballot which will be sent to you later in September should be returned as soon as possible.

Tennant, meanwhile, is calling for voters to have access to drop boxes like Maryland and many other states have for convenient delivery of ballots.

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