CHARLES TOWN – Tuesday is the deadline for Jefferson County residents to register to vote in the Nov. 6 general election.
The ballot will include two seats on the Jefferson County Commission seats, a U.S. Senate seat, a Second District seat for the U.S. House of Representatives, three seats in the House of Delegates and a state Senate seat.
Because of the controversy with the state Supreme Court – a spending scandal followed by a federal probe has generated indictments, resignations and an impeachment push – voters also will decide on two seats on the high court in a special, nonpartisan election on Nov. 6.
There are also two state constitution amendment proposals for voters to weigh. One asks whether “nothing in the Constitution of West Virginia secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion,” with pro-choice advocates urging “no” votes and anti-abortion groups pushing for the measure’s approval.
The other asks whether the Legislature should be empowered with more spending oversight of the state judiciary.
“Be an informed voter,” suggested Nikki Painter, chief deputy clerk for the county’s voter and elections office.
Painter, who has helped oversee local elections for the Jefferson County Clerk’s Office for 13 years, pointed out that county residents can go online to register to vote or renew an expired registration, check and update their voting registration status and information, or locate their local polling place.
Residents who haven’t voted at least once during the last eight years are dropped from the county’s voter registration rolls, Painter said. People who have changed residences are the most likely forget to register or update their information, she said.
A sample ballot for Jefferson County voters will be printed in the Spirit on Oct. 17 and 31. The information also is available at govotewv.com.
Websites for both the Jefferson County Clerk’s Office and the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office also have details about candidates. “We have tons of information that we put out there,” Painter said.
New voting machines
Also on the County Clerk’s website is information and a tutorial video on Jefferson County’s new touch-screen voting machines. Jefferson County was one of a dozen West Virginia voting jurisdictions to begin using the ExpressVote ballot machine with a DS200 ballot reader during the election primary in May, Painter said.
“It’s much easier for the voter to use,” she said.
The new electronic voting machines — designed to help all voters, including those with poor eyesight accurately mark their ballots — replace a process that relied on voters filling in “tiny bubbles” to mark their ballot choices, Painter said.
“People had a really hard time seeing the tiny bubbles on there,” she said.
The voting machines also generate a paper trail to allow overall voting results to be accurately audited, she explained.
County residents didn’t express any complaints or confusion from using the voting machines in May, although a few poll workers setting them up for the first time had some last-minute questions, Painter said.
“We really got positive feedback from voters,” she said. “They thought they were very user-friendly.”
Painter also said the voting machines avoid the expense of printing fixed ballots that go unused and get discarded. State law requires local election officials to have ballots on hand for every election for every registered voter, plus additional ballots to allow voters to correct or change their choices before submitting their ballots to be counted, she said.
The new voting machines use blank, generic paper ballot forms that can be used for any election, avoiding waste, she explained.
The ballots for the Jefferson County election were set Aug. 31.
Jefferson County has more than 39,000 registered voters. Painter said voter registrations typically increase during general elections with presidential contests, especially when a president isn’t running for re-election.
On Election Day, the County Clerk’s office typically fields a few phone calls from people asking where they can vote, Painter said. Any polling place can also direct a voter to the proper precinct.
This year one polling location for Shepherdstown residents has changed. Those who voted in the past at the Shepherdstown Fire Department will vote at Asbury United Methodist Church at 4267 Kearneysville Pike just outside Shepherdstown.
The county has 32 voting precincts operated by 164 poll workers. Election Day for poll workers begins at 5:30 a.m. and can run as long as 17 hours. An election worker in Jefferson County can earn from $300 to $350 for the day, more than what’s paid in any other county in West Virginia, Painter said.
Absentee voting is available for those who will be out of the country on Election Day or who are physically unable to reach a polling place that day or during the 10-day early voting period.