County Clerks and the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office have been keeping tabs of the numbers during early voting on the road bond. Here are some of the figures and a few observations on what they may (or may not) mean.
–Through 2 p.m. Thursday, 15,044 West Virginians had voted early. That represents 1.2 percent of the total number of registered voters (1,222,967).
–Democrats have a turnout edge so far. 7,737 Democrats had cast early ballots as of Thursday afternoon, while 5,063 Republicans had voted. Here’s another way to look at it: Democrats make up 44 percent of all registered voters, but they constitute 51 percent of the early voters. Overall Republican registration is 32 percent and 34 percent of the early voters are Republican. Independents and others constitute 24 percent of all voters, but just 15 percent of the early voters.
–The turnout looks to be very low. This is a little bit of an apples-to-oranges comparison, but it does give us some idea of turnout. In last year’s General Election through five days of early voting, eight percent of registered voters had cast ballots. Turnout ended up at 57 percent. Using the same ratio, with only one percent voting so far, the final turnout would be about seven percent.
–The state’s largest county, Kanawha, has had the most early voters through five days—1,116. Berkeley has the second most registered voters and Monongalia County the third, but Mon County has had 845 early voters through five days while Berkeley has had 558.
–The conventional wisdom (which is often wrong) suggests that the opponents have an advantage when the turnout is low, since it is more likely those against something will be motivated to vote. Governor Jim Justice is worried about just that. He said, “If we can get ‘em to the polls, we win.”
–Justice has been working the bond issue hard, going to town meetings across the state to push for passage, but his campaign also has a downside. Voters can make the bond a referendum on him, and our poll last month gave him just a 34 percent approval rating. That poll was taken as Justice was pulling his stunning party switch that upset Democrats.
–There may not be a well-funded organized opposition to the bond, but the resistance is very real. You see it on social media and hear it on talk shows. Much of it is rooted in a general distrust of state government or this administration to spend the $1.6 billion wisely and/or take on that additional debt.
–Early voting runs through Wednesday, October 4. Election Day is Saturday, October 7. The polls will be open on Election Day from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. The Secretary of State’s Office is going to tabulate the results and MetroNews will have coverage on our website that night.