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Berkeley prepares for Nov. 7 vote

October 26, 2000

Berkeley prepares for Nov. 7 vote



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - With a record number of local voters signed up to participate in the Nov. 7 general election, Berkeley County officials struggled Thursday to ensure the counting runs more smoothly than at the primary election in May.

"I want to follow the law to a 'T,' County Clerk John Small, who is in charge of running elections, told The Berkeley County Commissioners at their regular meeting. "I've been through a lot the last two months."

The May election for Circuit Court judge was so close it was recounted, counted again by the commissioners, the subject of a court hearing and an appeal to the state Supreme Court, which refused to hear it.

The process revealed a number of procedural problems officials have been seeking to correct.

One of the problems alleged in the May election centered on the number of unused ballots that remained after the ballots had been cast at the precincts. Some were missing after the May election.

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The law is unclear on precisely how they are to be handled, but seems to indicate they should be counted by precinct workers, then at the courthouse, then destroyed election night if there are no problems. They are to be kept wrapped and locked away if there is a discrepancy in the count.

Small said he is reluctant to destroy any ballots until after the commissioners canvass the election a few days after the votes are cast. Commissioner Robert Burkhart said that counting all the unused ballots on election night would create "a madhouse."

"I don't want to do anything wrong that night," Small said. The commissioners voted to have Small handle the issue as he saw fit within the law.

He also has assembled four teams of roving election supervisors who will visit polling places on election day to handle or prevent any problems. They will be equipped with cell phones.

Poll workers will have notebooks to make note of any problems or discrepancies. Training has been increased, as has the pay for poll workers. All poll worker positions are filled. A new election manual has been produced.

Small told the commissioners the number of voters in the county for the election is 38,964. That's an increase of about 22 percent from the presidential election four years ago. Ready to voteBerkeley County Clerk John Small reported the following numbers of registered voters for the Nov. 7 general election:

-- 38,964 total registered voters. That's an increase of about 22 percent from 1996.

-- The total includes: 17,440 Democrats, 15,240 Republicans, 5,847 nonpartisan, 56 Libertarians and 381 others.

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