WV Voting Rights Advocates, Community Leaders Continue to Call on Governor, Secretary of State to Mail Absentee Voting Applications to All Registered Voters

Lack of Uniformity, Fairness and Issues with Online Portal Cited as Reasons

August 31, 2020 3:30 pm

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CHARLESTON, W.V. — A coalition of voting rights advocates and community leaders is continuing to call on Governor Jim Justice and Secretary of State Mac Warner to mandate and provide funding for the mailing absentee ballot applications to all registered voters as was done in the primary election.

In an open letter to the Governor and the Secretary, the groups said the decision by some counties to mail the applications has the potential to introduce unfairness into the process and cause confusion for voters who may be expecting an application that will never come, based on their experience in the primary and hearing from family or friends in neighboring counties who have received an application.

The coalition also cited lack of internet access and issues with the absentee ballot application portal, as reinforcing their position that the process should be consistent with the primary election, saying many voters in are not able to access it or are not comfortable using it.

“A county by county decision on this issue cannot guarantee the benefit of an individual application to every registered voter regardless of where they live and their capacity to access your online portal,” the groups said in the letter. “We must not put additional barriers to the ability of these voters to participate fully in our upcoming general election.”

“Please move ahead quickly to institute statewide mailings of applications to all registered voters in order to give as much time as possible for the counties to get out the applications and facilitate the absentee voting process.”

Last month, the Secretary of State’s office confirmed that voters will be able to cite COVID-19 as a medical excuse to vote absentee in the upcoming election.

In a previous letter to the Governor, Secretary of State Mac Warner, and Linda Higgins, the head of the WV Association of County Clerks, the groups said the decision giving all West Virginia voters the option to safely vote by absentee ballot in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic “is just and right,” but cited the mailing of applications to all registered voters as “crucial to enabling voters to take advantage of this option in the primary, with half of voters choosing to cast their ballots safely from home.”

The groups also criticized Governor Justice’s attacks on absentee voting, saying they “are a direct assault on voting rights.”

“It’s hard to understand why Justice would discourage voting by mail. The facts just don’t support his claims that voting absentee by mail is not secure.” said Julie Archer, Coordinator for WV Citizens for Clean Elections.

“The threat of COVID-19 is greater today than it was in June when West Virginia voters proved that voting by mail works,” said Archer. “If Justice truly cares for the well-being of West Virginia residents — and we believe he does — then he should immediately order election officials to mail absentee ballot applications to eligible voters. There is still time for the governor to make things right.”

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