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Clerk opposes satellite locations for early voting

July 09, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Berkeley County Clerk John W. Small Jr. told county commissioners Thursday he was "strictly opposed" to opening satellite locations for early voting for elections, primarily because of the extra security, equipment and staffing needed to make it viable.

"It's going to cost the county a whole lot of money to even set up one outside location," Small said.

State lawmakers this year passed legislation that allows counties to provide additional locations for early voting, in addition to the County Clerk's office.

Any satellite location in addition to 110 W. King St. in Martinsburg would have to be requested by the county clerk 120 days before an election and approved by the county commission. The additional location proposed also would have to be agreeable to the chairpersons of the county executive committees for the Republican and Democratic parties, according to the new state code.

West Virginia voters are able to cast ballots as many as 20 days before Election Day as part of what is known as "no excuse" early voting.

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Niles Bernick, chairman of the county's Democratic Executive Committee, and Mick Staton, the county Republican Party's executive committee chair, both told the commissioners they were interested in knowing the demographics of the early voters who have been casting ballots early, rather than advocating for satellite early voting locations.

While Staton said security was not a concern with the current early voting process that Small and Woodfall now manage, the GOP would want to make sure security at additional satellite locations would be "tight" and that every person's vote would be counted.

Commissioner Anthony J. "Tony" Petrucci said he shared Small and Woodfall's concerns about the added cost and the strain on resources and staff.

"I sort of follow their lead ... they're the experts on this," Petrucci said.

Commissioner William L. "Bill" Stubblefield said he would be interested in seeing where early voters are traveling from before deciding whether a satellite location is needed.

"Our county is not that large and it's accessible," Stubblefield said later.

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