CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — Senate Bill 565 is based on what county clerks experienced this past election.
“The clerks want more time between the end of early voting and election day,” said West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner.
And the bill does just that. It moves up the deadline for in-person early voting to six days ahead of an election.
“So now it starts on a Saturday and it ends on a Wednesday, and then the clerks have Thursday, Friday, Saturday to get those poll books ready. It is a rational, reasonable response to what the clerks ask us to,” said Warner.
But the change is raising concerns among Democrat legislators who fear the changes will keep voters away from the polls.
“The numbers of people who voted those last two days that weekend, they were extremely high. So that is the reason I voted against it,” said Senator Mike Caputo, (D) District 13.
“Instead of talking about reducing days for absentee balloting and early voting, we should be talking about expanding access to voting for all people,” said Senator Richard Lindsay, (D) District 8.
The measure also moves the deadline for absentee ballots to be mailed from six days prior to the election to 11. That is just shy of a request by the U.S Postal Service for a 15-day window in order to guarantee all ballots are delivered to county clerks on time.
A bill regarding voting laws is also on the national front, making its way through Washington right now, which West Virginia has a large role in.
All of this is playing out as Congress debates national voting law changes prompted by the confusion surrounding the 2020 election. The house has passed its version, the Senate is debating it now.
“49 Democrat senators have endorsed S1, 50 Republicans oppose it. There is one man in the middle and that’s our Senator Joe Manchin. And having been a Secretary of State, he understands elections and that’s why he has his own concerns about S1,” said Warner.