West Virginia legislators call for 2020 primary election to be exclusively ‘Vote by Mail’

West Virginia

TAMPA, FL – OCTOBER 22: Voting booths are setup at the Yuengling center on the campus of University of South Florida as workers prepare to open the doors to early voters on October 22, 2018 in Tampa, Florida. Florida voters head to the polls to cast their early ballots in the race for the Senate as well as the Governors seats. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia Senate and House Members are calling on Governor Justice to declare the state’s 2020 primary election a Vote by Mail (VBM) only election, according to a release from House and senate minority legislators.

“We must take every commonsense precaution to ensure the certainty and safety of our upcoming primary election,” said Senator Doug Facemire (D-Braxton). “We must follow the instructions of our public health professionals and use social distancing to keep the virus from spreading or rebounding,” he said. In just the past few days, West Virginia’s County Clerks asked Governor Justice to endorse a VBM primary election for everyone’s health and safety and to secure a fair election.

“Utah, Washington, Hawaii, Oregon and Colorado already have had numerous vote-by-mail elections with no voter fraud issues,” explained Delegate Evan Hansen (D-Monongalia). “Most of these states rank near the top in voter turnout and have time-tested procedures that West Virginia can copy to ensure the security of every vote. It’s simple and secure. Every voter gets a secure ballot in the mail and sends it back with a postmark by the date of the election. There is even federal money available to help with the costs,” he stated.

“It’s pretty hard to argue with Oregon Secretary of State Beverly Clarno, a Republican, who repeatedly has said that Oregon’s vote by mail [VBM] system is secure and that Oregon voters love it. She described Oregon’s VBM system to reporter Mark Budryk of The Hill as a ‘20-year success story,’” added Delegate Barbara Fleischauer (D-Monongalia).

The release stated that the legislators noted that county poll workers are mostly at-risk seniors who should not be asked to risk exposure to hundreds, if not thousands, of the voting public. The legislators urged that voters should not be forced to crowd into often tight locations or wait in large lines.

The release stated that anyone who touches a surface that has been touched by someone who is COVID-19 positive risks infection. The legislators said that counties will be forced to reduce the number of voting locations, in some counties as much as 90 percent, which will result in overcrowded polling locations. The release stated that Harrison County Clerk Susan Thomas announced a reduction from the number of voting locations from 67 to seven, saying, “It will be inconvenient and crowded, but we just don’t have enough poll workers who can risk getting the virus.”

“You can’t say you’re putting the safety of the public first, then offer voters overcrowded polling places or require them to mail an application for a ballot. We’re sending mixed messages,” said Delegate Andrew Robinson (D-Kanawha). Senator William Ihlenfeld (D-Ohio) added that, “The smart decision is to make it as easy as possible to vote safely by voting exclusively by mail. West Virginia has the most vulnerable population in the nation and our poll workers are among the most vulnerable. Let’s do the right thing and stop playing politics with the health of our state.”

The release stated that democratic legislators in the state called on Governor Justice, Secretary of State Warner and the leadership in the House and Senate to join in a bipartisan call to make the 2020 primary election exclusively VBM in an effort to put the health and safety of West Virginian’s first.

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