We have a primary election coming up and there are traditional and new voting issues facing the citizenry of our state. There is a new voter’s identification law in force for the first time, our traditional lack of voter participation to consider, and a lack of data from the Secretary of State’s office to analyze recent trends. One is hopeful that the recent teachers’ strike will invigorate the electorate this May and November.
Voters will be required to provide ID when voting for the first time in West Virginia history. They have a choice of 10 non-photo and seven photo ID cards (such as a birth certificate or driver’s license) to choose to present. There are also three exemption options available: 1) A signed and sworn adult statement of knowing the individual for six months with the swearer having a photo ID with their name and address on it, 2) Identification by a poll worker, and 3) Being a resident of a state care facility.
Registered voters should be aware that the Secretary of State has been actively purging rolls for reasons including the transfer to new 911 addresses. I encourage you to go to the Secretary’s website (https://services.sos.wv.gov/Elections/Voter/AmIRegisteredToVote) and check your current status. This link will also update you on your polling location in case it has changed since you last voted.
Improving the picture in West Virginia begins with registration. An estimated 212,000 residents — about 15 percent of the voting age population — who met the age and eligibility requirements never registered in 2012 (most current data posted on the WV Secretary of State’s website). And despite the state’s slight loss in population, there are still about that many unregistered potential voters out there. In fact, registration numbers through February show that West Virginia’s voter rolls are about 5,000 less than 1.23 million registered for the General Election in 2012. Meanwhile, turnout even among registered voters has been on the decline for the past 20 years, and the figures for the last off-year General Election in 2014 was a paltry 32 percent.
So, new voters and engaged voters could be the deciding factor in almost any race. But the time to act is now. West Virginians must register at their county clerk’s office by Tuesday, April 17, to participate in the upcoming May primaries and nonpartisan races. Individuals with a valid driver’s license may register online at https://ovr.sos.wv.gov/Register/Landing.
Early voting is available on weekdays during regular business hours and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.at your county courthouse. Primary election early voting period runs April 25 to May 5. You should contact your county clerk to confirm these hours and dates.
So get registered, check your registration, choose whether to vote early or on May 8, and remember in May and November! Your democracy wants and needs your participation!