POINT PLEASANT — Early in-person voters were lined up at least a half hour before the Mason County Courthouse opened on Wednesday, the first day of early voting across the state for the Nov. 3 general election.
By 4:15 p.m., 282 voters had cast ballots, with several still in line, according to staff with the office of Mason County Clerk Diana Cromley. According to Point Pleasant Register archives, in comparison to 2016, also a presidential election year, the first day of early voting saw 391 ballots cast, the second day saw 366 and third day nearly 400.
Despite an ongoing pandemic, Cromley said it had been “busy” with a “steady” stream of voters, all of whom were patient with not only waiting in line (one person reported waiting 50 minutes), but social distancing, wearing masks and getting their temperatures taken at the 6th Street entrance – all steps to keep voters safe during the age of COVID-19. Also, Cromley told Mason County Commissioners last week, over 1,600 requests for absentee ballots have been made from voters.
Cromley spoke with the Register on Wednesday, addressing any concerns voters may have regarding absentee or mail-in ballots. Cromley said there are safeguards in place to ensure the election is fair and every vote counts, once.
For starters, when a request for an absentee ballot is received, the signature on that request is compared against the signature on file for that voter, if it doesn’t match, the clerk’s office calls the voter to be sure they requested it. Cromley said that verification has happened, and she has personally called voters to confirm signatures.
Once the numbered ballot is returned in specialized envelopes, the signature is checked again and if the ballot is hand delivered, the person delivering it to the clerk’s office must sign off as having done so as another safeguard.
Also, in regards to voter privacy, the mail-in ballots are separated from their envelopes (which have identifying information) into two piles with both Democrats and Republicans in the room during the sorting. By separating and shuffling them, there is no way to “marry” the ballot with the identity of the voter, Cromley said.
Voters can also track their absentee ballot via an option on the website for the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office. In addition to the option of hand delivering an absentee ballot to the clerk’s office, they can be mailed in.
Absentee and early in-person ballots can be submitted into the election equipment now but cannot be tabulated until after the polls close on Tuesday, Nov. 3.
“In Mason County, under my watch, we’re going to do everything possible to make sure this is a fair, and clean, election,” Cromley said. “We’re going to double and triple check…whatever we have to do when those ballots come back in the mail. (And) We’re going to prepare our poll workers to do a great job on Election Day.”
As for early voting, it takes place 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., weekdays, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays through Oct. 31. Early voting takes places on the second floor of the Mason County Courthouse in the county commission room.
After voting, voters have the option to pose for a selfie in front of a “My Vote Counts” and “I Voted” backdrop, located on the 6th Street Side entrance.
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Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing.