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WV county clerks face redistricting challenges ahead of Primary Election

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — County clerks across West Virginia are working hard to overcome obstacles as they prepare for the May Primary Election.

Clerks tell MetroNews the biggest issue has been redistricting, especially for larger counties with higher populations.

Harrison County Clerk John Spires

Harrison County Clerk John Spires said almost every voter has been impacted during this election cycle.

“We have about 43,000 in our county. All of them saw some type of change, if for no other reason, that their delegate district was redistricted,” Spires said.

Completing redistricting tasks during an election year compared to any other year has been part of the challenge. Wood County Clerk Mark Rhodes said they’re working to move 8,000 voters. As of Tuesday morning, they had 300 voters left to move.

“With delays from the Census bureau, getting the data, delays from the House of Delegates, it’s been kind of a push right now,” Rhodes said.

Spires said they want to make sure they’re accurate when making the transition.

Wood County Clerk Mark Rhodes

“Just making sure the candidates are correct on the correct ballots and that the people go to the correct locations. It’s quite the undertaking that we’ve never had to do before,” he said.

The new statewide voter registration system has also caused some headaches. Rhodes said they’ve had some technical issues. He said because the process has been so difficult, they’ve had to make corrections by hand.

“Once we would move a street location, we’d have to go back and find all the people and make sure that they end up in the right location, so we switched using the module and started doing things manually,” he said.

Spires expressed similar frustrations with the software.

“Because it’s new, it’s difficult. There have been a lot of growing pains with the new system,” he said.

Absentee ballots are light compared to previous years and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Typically Harrison County would mail about 500 absentees for a presidential election. They’ve had about 50 this year. When the pandemic hit, Spires said they mailed about 10,000 absentee ballots.

Rhodes said they’ve mailed around the same amount.

“It’s expected for a midterm election. We’ve done about 48 or so,” he said.

As counties work to bounce back from the pandemic, many are still seeing a shortage in poll workers.

“It’s every year. We think that we’re going to end up not having enough people to work, but we always do,” Rhodes said.

Primary Election Day in West Virginia is May 10.

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