West Virginians are once again taking advantage of voting in ways other than showing up at the polls on Election Day.
The Secretary of State’s Office reported, as of yesterday, 298,226 votes had been cast either by early in-person voting or by absentee ballot. Of those votes, 173,764 were early votes and 124,464 were absentee.
There is a political divide in these early votes.
More Republicans than Democrats or Independents are taking advantage of early in-person voting (75,505 Republicans, 61,062 Democrats, 37,197 Independents or other party).
But more Democrats than Republicans are voting absentee. (70,975 Democrats, 30,554 Republicans, 22,933 Independents or other party).
We do not know yet how many West Virginians will vote this year, but if the turnout is similar to the 2016 General Election (turnout of 713,051), then 42 percent of all the votes in this election have already been cast.
Kanawha County, the state’s largest, has already set a record for early voting. Clerk Vera McCormick said, as of yesterday afternoon, over 36,000 early in-person votes and mail-in votes had been received, more than twice the number as 2016.
And more early votes are coming.
Early in-person voting lasts through Saturday, and there is often a surge in the final days. The deadline has passed to request an absentee ballot, however, absentee ballots postmarked by Election Day are accepted if received by the start of vote canvassing, which will begin November 9.
West Virginians took advantage of early voting opportunities in the Primary Election. Half of all votes were cast using an absentee ballot. Remember, the election was delayed because of the pandemic and every registered voter was sent an application for a ballot.
Another nine percent voted in-person early, so only four out of every ten votes were cast on the actual Election Day.
What is not known at this point is whether the heavy early participation means a higher voter turnout or whether there will be the usual number of voters, but many who just did not want to wait until Election Day.
Last minute ballots can change the outcome of a close race. For example, on Primary Election night it appeared that Lacy Watson had won the race for the Democratic nomination for the 3rd Congressional District. However, when all the votes were counted and the canvass was complete, Hilary Turner was declared the winner by 67 votes.
But we should know the results of most races on election night. The county clerks have the Primary Election under their belt, and they should have all the early and absentee ballots received to date sorted and ready to be counted when the polls close.
MetroNews Decision 2020 General Election coverage will begin Tuesday night at 7:06 p.m. We will provide live, continuous radio coverage and the results from federal and statehouse races will be posted on our website at wvmetronews.com.