Virus precautions in place at early voting sites across West Virginia

WHEELING, W.Va. — Early voting begins Wednesday in West Virginia amid the COVID-19 pandemic and many precincts and voting stations around the state are taking precautions.

When entering the City-County building in Wheeling, Ohio County voters will be asked to wear a mask and put on a glove on the dominant hand before entering the early voting room on the first floor.

Toni Chieffalo, the Election Coordinator for Ohio County, told MetroNews the gloves, both latex and non-latex, will help voters avoid high touch point areas and protect the poll workers. Gloves will be disposed of as the voters leave the room.

“We are asking they put on one glove on the hand they sign with, she said. “That way they can hold their own ID and then go in up to the poll clerk at the table and show the ID. The poll clerk can bring them up.

“Then when they ask them to sign the electronic poll books, they’ll have their glove on and they will use the stylist that is attached to it. This way they are not touching any screen.”

Chieffalo said only four voters will be allowed in the polling room at one time. Other voters will be asked to stand at a six-feet distance apart in the hallway.

All workers in Ohio County will have a mask on and masks are required to enter the City-County building, but Chieffalo said the mask rule will be tough to enforce. She said the poll workers will clean any machine a voter is not wearing a mask or glove.

“Coming in the building you have to have a mask so I am hoping that everybody does,” she said. “We are not going to stop somebody from voting if they don’t. We went through the early voting class and I told the workers ‘Get them through, get them in and out as fast as you can.’ There’s only so much you can do.”

In Harrison County, any voter who does not wear a mask and undergo a temperature check will not be able to vote. The Harrison County Commission unanimously approved those two mandates for primary voting at a meeting on Tuesday, WV News reported.

Voters who have a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher will still be allowed to participate. According to WV News, the temperature check is intended to allow poll workers to take extra precautions and sanitization measures after a voter is finished.

The commission said that masks will be provided to voters who do not bring their own and that anyone who refuses the procedures will be denied access to the voting facility.

Voters who would prefer not to go through the procedures in any county may still request an absentee ballot. A county clerk’s office must receive the absentee ballot application by June 3. The absentee ballot must be postmarked by the primary election date of June 9 to count.

As of Tuesday, the Secretary of State Mac Warner said there have been 249,263 or 20.3 percent of registered voters request an absentee ballot. Warner reported that 135,726 of those ballots, 11.1% of registered voters, have been cast.

In Ohio County, Chieffalo said around 7,000 absentee ballots were sent out and her office has received more than 4,000 back as fears of the coronavirus remain.

She believes the numbers of absentee ballots will lessen the crowds seen during early voting in Ohio County.

“Since we did the absentees, I don’t think the crowds are going to be as large for early voting, I really don’t. Even Election Day,” she said.

Monongalia County Clerk Carye Blaney told MetroNews affiliate WAJR that her staff has processed more than 13,000 absentee ballot requests. She said that the volume of ballots along changing protocols due to the pandemic has been a challenge for her office.

“In a typical presidential election we would process about 1,000 to 1,200 absentee ballots. We’re about 13-times what we would normally process in a presidential election,” she said.

In-person early voting will begin tomorrow and end June 6.

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