Early voting running smoothly in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle

October 25, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Stephen Sparks of Martinsburg said he made an impromptu decision to vote early in the Nov. 6 general election at the Berkeley County Courthouse annex Thursday afternoon.

“I was walking to the library and the door was open,” Sparks said after casting his ballot at the county’s early voting location.

Among the last to cast ballots Thursday, Ruth Ann Evans of Hedgesville, W.Va., said she voted early for the first time since moving to the county from Virginia, where early voting isn’t available.

Whether planned or otherwise, both Evans and Sparks said they were sure of who they wanted to vote for before making their choices on the county’s iVotronic touch-screen voting machines.

They were among 877 people who cast ballots by Thursday at 5 p.m. in Berkeley County, according to County Clerk John W. Small Jr.’s office, which oversees elections.

When combined with early voting figures from Wednesday, 1,746 people, including a number of poll workers, had voted early, according to election officials.

Thursday’s turnout in Jefferson County was 580 people, increasing the county’s two-day total to 1,180, according to election officials there.

The early voting total for Thursday in Morgan County, W.Va., was 279 people, up from 179 ballots cast in four hours of voting Wednesday, when the county courthouse closes at 1 p.m.

Early voting at county courthouses and courthouse annexes across West Virginia will continue until Nov. 3 at 5 p.m.

The early voting period includes two Saturdays — Oct. 27 and Nov. 3 — but not Sunday, Oct. 28. The hours for early voting in both counties is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Berkeley County residents can vote early at the county courthouse annex at 110 W. King St. in Martinsburg, and voters in Jefferson County can cast ballots at 100 E. Washington St. in Charles Town at the county courthouse.

At the Morgan County Courthouse at 77 Fairfax St. in Berkeley Springs, early voting is available from 9 a.m., to 5 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Friday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday.

Early voters in the Jefferson County Courthouse spent more than an hour in a line that wound from the courthouse entrance down the end of the long hallway then wound its way halfway back up to the room that holds the voting booths.

Elloyd Lotridge and Carolyn Rodis, newcomers to Shepherdstown, W.Va., from Annapolis, Md., were hoping to cast ballots for the first time in their newly adopted state.

“We went in and turned around,” Loridge said. “The line was too long. They told us it would be an hour.”

“We’ll just wait and vote in Shepherdstown on Nov. 6,” Rodis said.

The line was even too long for Reva Mickey, the chairwoman of the Jefferson County Democratic Executive Committee. She peeked in, saw the line and closed the door behind her.

“I don’t want to wait,” she said. “It’s great to see the people of Jefferson County using their privilege to vote.”

Mayor A. David Hamill of Ranson, W.Va., had made his way nearly halfway through the line Thursday afternoon.

“I’m pleased to see the excitedness about the responsibility that people have about voting,” he said. “There’s no complacency here.”

Bonnie Woodfall, who supervises Berkeley County’s voter registration/election division for Small’s office, said she had mailed out more than 700 absentee ballots as of Thursday.

The number of absentee ballot requests from students away at colleges has been “real high,” Woodfall said.

Applications to the county voter registration office requesting absentee ballots must be received by Oct. 31, Woodfall said.

While the line of people waiting to vote early has been sizable in the first two days, Woodfall said the mood among those who have turned out to vote has been upbeat. Woodfall said she hasn’t received any significant complaints so far.

“These two days have been smooth,” Woodfall said.

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