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Clerk plans marathon voter registration session

April 07, 2000|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - In a push to register as many new voters as possible, Berkeley County Clerk John Small is keeping his office open for 40 straight hours this weekend.

Small said his marathon registration session is unprecedented in West Virginia.

"I'm not going to argue with him," said Bill Harrington, chief of staff in Secretary of State Ken Hechler's office, which oversees elections in the state.

"It's a great idea," Harrington added.

The 40 hours was scheduled to begin at 7 a.m. today and will end at 11 p.m. on Saturday. A mix of volunteers and paid staff will work 8-hour shifts.

The deadline to register in the May 9 primary is Monday.

All West Virginia county clerks have been asked to keep extended hours until then. Harrington said they must be open at least 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. today, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday.

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As the primary nears, county and state officials are using many techniques to register voters. They are going to schools and social service offices. They are encouraging people to mail in postcards. They have included a registration form that can be printed and filled out at the Secretary of State's Web site.

Small said an estimated 40 percent of eligible voters in Berkeley county are registered.

Before the 1998 election, the Secretary of State's office estimated that about 1 million out of 1.4 million eligible West Virginians were registered, or more than 70 percent, according to Harrington.

To register in Berkeley County, potential voters must have lived there at least 30 days, Small said.

They must be at least 18 years old. Someone who is 17 now but will turn 18 before the November election may also vote in the primary, Small said.

Registrants must bring either a Social Security card or birth certificate as proof of age, he said.

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