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Voter turn-out heavy for first week of early voting

By Toni Milbourne - For the Chronicle | Oct 30, 2020

County residents line the block surrounding the Jefferson County Courthouse, waiting to early vote on Monday afternoon. Toni Milbourne

CHARLES TOWN — Lines have been prominently extending from the door of the Jefferson County Courthouse down several blocks, as voters take advantage of early voting hours for the General Election. The early voting polls opened Oct. 21 and will run through Saturday with hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

While many voters have taken advantage of the absentee ballot option to mail in or drop off their ballot this year, many more are casting in-person. More than 2,700 Jefferson County residents had cast early voting ballots by mid-afternoon on Monday, according to Jefferson County Clerk Jackie Shadle. In spite of the appearance of long lines, Shadle indicated the numbers are not higher than in previous years as yet.

“I voted early. I have for many elections,” said Charles Town resident Ray Campbell. “My decisions on the candidates are developed and solidified long before I have the opportunity to vote.”

Campbell went on to say his job involves some unpredictability, which is why he took advantage of the early voting option again this year.

“I have the right to vote, but I have the greater responsibility to be an informed voter and to cast my ballot wisely,” Campbell said. “I believe it is especially important in times such as these that people who view voting as the weighty responsibility that it is, make it to the polls to cast their ballot — whether that be on election day or by early voting.”

Voters were given many options on how to ensure their votes are counted this year. Absentee ballots have been sent and have been steadily returning to the Jefferson County Clerk’s office. Early voting continues through Saturday evening and polls will open on Nov. 3 for in-person voting at the county’s voting precincts at 6:30 a.m.

Harpers Ferry resident Jayme Metzgar explained she voted early because she is a poll worker.

“I have to vote early, because I’m a poll worker outside my precinct. But if I didn’t, I would wait until election day,” Metzgar said. “I’d be surprised if the lines are as long at precincts as they’ve been at the courthouse.”

Emily Ekegren agreed with Metzgar, mentioning she changed her mind about voting early when she saw the length of the lines.

“I’ll wait until election day,” Ekegren said.

It took Ann Fern about an hour-and-a-half to cast her ballot at the courthouse.

“I was pleased with the friendliness and patience of all those waiting in line. A big shout out to the security folks working the lines,” Fern said, mentioning they were “talkative, helpful and smiling.”

“At least, I think they were smiling,” Fern laughed. “Everyone was complying with the mask mandate.”

Secretary of State Mac Warner issued five tips that can potentially better prepare a voter for early voting or voting on Election Day. He called, first, for patience as the guidelines for social distancing will undoubtedly slow the process a bit. All voters are reminded to bring a mask to the polling place.

“If you don’t have a face covering, one may be provided upon request,” Warner said. “Importantly, no voter may be turned away at the polls.”

Voters are encouraged to review the sample ballot before heading out. Shadle echoed this sentiment in Jefferson County as there are two issues to be decided by the voters including a school levy and a bond for school building projects. These items are detailed significantly on the ballot, which can cause a voter to spend more time in the voting booth. Voters can find a sample ballot at www.jeffersoncountywv.org under the County Clerk’s election tab or by visiting www.govotewv.com.

Warner reminded voters to bring identification with them, because it is required when casting a ballot in-person. The identification does not have to show a photo, but must have the voter’s name.

Shadle noted polls will be open Nov. 3 from 6:30 a.m to 7:30 p.m. Voters will go to their assigned polling places. Only two polling places in Jefferson County have been changed. They include those who normally voted at Precincts 23A and 23B at Jefferson Academy will now vote at Crosspoint Church, 3066 S. Childs Road in Kearneysville. Voters in Precinct 14 who previously voted at Camp Hill United Methodist Church will now vote at Harpers Ferry Middle School.

Finally, Warner encouraged voters to report any suspicious activity they see taking place while voting to the Election Fraud Tip Line at 877-FRAUD-WV.

“Voters are the eyes and ears of the election process,” Warner said. “You can help identify suspicious activity and potential fraud by watching for voter intimidation and suppression, voters taking photos of their ballot for ‘proof’ of how they voted and people campaigning outside the polling locations.”