County Clerk Gregg Ely cringes when he’s reminded that the President of the United States encouraged people to vote twice. Earlier this month, President Donald Trump told a crowd in North Carolina to submit an absentee ballot and then go to their polling places on Nov. 3 and vote again.
“First of all, we can’t stop anyone from voting,” Ely said. “If you show up at a polling place, you will be allowed to vote.”
But there are checks and balances in place to ensure that your vote is only counted once, provided you are a registered voter in West Virginia.
Those checks and balances begin even before an absentee ballot is sent to a registered voter.
“When we get an application for an absentee ballot, we verify the signature,” Ely said. “When we get the ballot back, we verify the signature on the outside of the envelope. If there is any question, it becomes a provisional ballot.”
Every polling place has a Poll Book, which lists the names and addresses of registered voters for that precinct. It also details the voter’s party designation and has a copy of their signature. When you sign for a ballot on Nov. 3, the poll worker will compare your signature to the one on file.
Let’s say, you requested an absentee ballot, but then decided to vote in person. The Poll Book will have the notation “Applied For Absentee Ballot” in big, bold letters beside your name.
Let’s say, you returned your absentee ballot to the County Clerk’s office, either in person or by mail, then decided to vote again in person. The Poll Book will have the notation “Returned Absentee Ballot” in big, bold letters beside your name.
Let’s say, you voted early and decided to vote again on Nov. 3. The Poll Book will have the notation “Early Voted” in big, bold letters beside your name.
In all three of those scenarios, you will not be denied the opportunity to vote. You will be given a provisional ballot. Once completed, the provisional ballot will be placed in a sealed envelope and the reason for the provisional ballot will be written on the outside of the envelope.
“We cannot refuse anyone the right to vote,” Ely reiterated.
“The County Commission, at the canvass, will determine if the provisional ballot should be counted. That is done before the envelope is opened.”
Ely said if you requested an absentee ballot and then decided to vote in person, simply bring the absentee ballot with you to the polling place.
“You can bring it, either blank or complete,” Ely said. “The poll worker will ‘spoil’ it – mark it out – and put it in a special envelope. Then you can vote with a regular ballot.”
If a voter makes a mistake on a ballot and requests another one, the poll worker will mark out the first one and put it in the same envelope. “We compare the number of ballots they were given with the number of ballots that were cast,” Ely said. “They have to balance out.”
Ely said the fact that Hardy is a small county enables his office to verify every signature. “Places like Monongalia County or Kanawha County can’t do that as easily as we can,” he said.
There are three ways to vote in West Virginia – absentee, early and in person.
Early voting begins on Wednesday, Oct. 21 and continues through Saturday, Oct. 31.
“The courthouse in Moorefield is the only location for early voting in Hardy County,” Ely said. “People ask why there aren’t other locations and that would mean connecting our voting machines to the Internet. None of our election equipment is hooked to the Internet. As long as they are not connected to the Internet, they can’t be hacked.”
Early voting is available during regular courthouse hours 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. The courthouse will be open on Saturday, Oct. 24 and Oct. 31, from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
“If you registered to vote online, you may be asked to provide a picture ID,” Ely said.
If you request an absentee ballot it must be returned by mail or hand delivered to the County Clerk’s office. During the Primary Election, some voters returned their absentee ballots via the lockers at the entrance to the courthouse.
“Technically, they must be hand delivered to someone in the Clerk’s office,” Ely said. “And you can’t deliver more than two ballots.”
Ely said he is always looking for poll workers. It’s a paid position and there is training involved. You must be a registered voter in Hardy County and you cannot be directly related to anyone on the ballot.
There are three training sessions scheduled:
• Tuesday, Oct. 6 at the Community Center in Wardensville
• Thursday, Oct. 8 at the Ambulance Authority Building in Baker
• Tuesday, Oct. 13 at the Moorefield Volunteer Fire Department Bingo Hall in Moorefield.
All sessions are at 6:30 p.m.
Important dates to remember are as follows:
• Last day to register to vote in the November election is Tuesday, Oct. 13.
• Last day to request an absentee ballot is Wednesday, Oct. 28.
• Early voting is Wednesday, Oct. 21 through Saturday, Oct. 31.
• Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3. Polls open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m. Anyone in line to vote at 7:30 p.m. will be allowed to vote.
No matter how you decide to vote, the important thing is that you vote.