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Let’s make it easier to vote

By Delegate John Doyle - Report From the Legislature | Dec 4, 2020

We all owe a big debt of gratitude to the many people who labored to make the Nov. 4 General Election work as smoothly as it did.

I include everyone who worked at a polling station, as well as all of the employees of the County Clerk’s office. We’re particularly fortunate to have Nikki Painter in charge of the Elections Division of the County Clerk’s office. She is a whiz at running elections, and all of the staff people are both competent and pleasant.

Because of the coronavirus, this was the most difficult election to execute in my memory. But the staff of the County Clerk and the pollworkers pulled it off. Kudos to them all.

However, I question some of the decisions made by those whose role it is to run the show. They mean well, but different decisions would have made it easier for many folks to vote.

At least a half dozen drop boxes could have been placed around the county, so people wanting to vote by mail could have done so, without using the U.S. Postal Service. I think such boxes should have been installed. West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner had ordered all county clerks to not install such boxes. But clerks in some counties did so anyway, realizing that Warner lacked the authority to force compliance with his “order.”

I think the USPS performed admirably (I used it to vote). But many people had been scared away by stories (true or not) of mail being delayed. Folks who didn’t want to use the USPS were forced to stand in line, either at the one early voting location (the County Court House in Charles Town) or at their precinct.

Which leads us to another problem. I think there should have been more than one early voting location established. I think we needed one in Shepherdstown and one on the Blue Ridge Mountain. The County Commission could have instructed the County Clerk to do this, but they didn’t. And the County Clerk could have done this on her own, but she didn’t. I know there would have been a greater expense involved, with more than one location (as there would have been with drop boxes), but too many people had more difficulty voting than necessary during this election.

Some people (I don’t know how many) gave up standing in line at their precincts on Election Day, and went to other precincts to vote. I’m told all of those ballots were rejected at the official canvass held on Nov. 9.

I’m not a lawyer, but I’ve been reading laws for two dozen years as a member of the Legislature. I believe the law gives the county commissioners (acting as ballot commissioners) the leeway to allow such votes to be counted, during an emergency like the coronavirus. I think any of those votes cast for offices that were on the ballot in the voter’s proper precinct could have and should have been counted.

I think we should make it as easy for people to vote as we possibly can.

John Doyle is a delegate for the West Virginia District 67. He can be reached at johndoyle@wvhouse.gov.