CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — West Virginia community groups and voting rights advocates are looking to Gov. Jim Justice and other state local officials to replicate primary election voting and absentee ballot options in the upcoming general election.
In a letter to Justice and other officials, the groups wrote, “Giving all West Virginia voters the option to safely vote by absentee ballot in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is just and right.”
They also cited the mailing of applications to all registered voters as “crucial to enabling voters to take advantage of this option in the primary, with half of the voters choosing to cast their ballots safely from home.”
The Secretary of State’s office confirmed Monday voters will be able to cite COVID-19 as a medical excuse to vote absentee in the upcoming election.
“West Virginia voters should never have to choose between their health and their right to vote. Let me be very clear. Any voter concerned about their health and safety because of COVID-19 will have the option to vote by absentee ballot,” Warner said.
“Ensuring all voters can utilize the absentee process is a common-sense step. Now we call on our elected officials to keep the same process they had during the primary by mailing absentee ballots. This will reduce confusion and encourage voter participation.”Eli Baumwell, Policy Director for the ACLU of WV
Efforts also include a letter-writing campaign targeting Justice and Warner. The letter from the groups acknowledged voters would have an online option for requesting absentee ballots for the November election, but expressed concern it would not help many older West Virginians or those without internet access.
“As an experienced software developer, one of the downsides of a new online portal put together on such short order is that it may have some unresolved bugs, some that may cause worse delivery issues, than the so-called ‘issues related to the U.S. Mail service’ the Secretary of State’s office highlighted in their after-action report.”Jonathan Rosenbaum, President of the League of Women Voters of WV
Rosenbaum said election officials needed to make the extra effort to inform voters lacked computers, technical skills, the internet, or transportation of alternative for requesting a ballot. “However, that takes us back to the obvious solution, which is to mail everyone absentee ballot applications.”
The groups also criticized Gov. Justice’s attacks on absentee voting, saying they “are a direct assault on voting rights.”
“We know that absentee voting increases participation and ensures that more Americans — including members of our military — have their voices heard. We also know that states with long-established vote-by-mail programs run them smoothly and expand voter engagement in their states. We cannot allow the right to safely vote become a polarizing issue. We can protect West Virginia voters and protect the vote during this pandemic. And we must.”Julie Archer, Coordinator for WV Citizens for Clean Elections
Environmental justice organizations and organized labor joined the groups were joined in their call to replicate the voting and absentee ballot request options that were used in the primary.