Voters may now request absentee/mail-in ballots for November election
By Liz Beavers
Tribune Managing Editor
KEYSER - Applications for absentee or mail-in ballots are now being accepted at the Mineral County Clerk’s Office.
County clerk Lauren Ellifritz, who also serves as the county’s elections clerk, announced Tuesday that those in the military or living oversees are able to apply to vote absentee at any time, but voters not falling in those categories were not able to make application until Aug. 11 in accordance with state election law.
The ballots will not be mailed out until Sept. 18, however.
“There have been a couple hiccups” in the ballot printing process, she said, adding jokingly, “of course, it is 2020.”
Ellifritz explained that a lawsuit has been filed elsewhere in the state to dispute the order of candidates on the ballot, and that has delayed printing of the ballots.
If it delays it much longer, she added, “it will be a problem.”
“Ballots are supposed to be printed on Aug. 25,” she said.
Ellifritz also said she expects all precincts to be open in Mineral County on election day, and she continues to recruit poll workers.
“We need a minimum of five poll workers at each precinct, but in a presidential election I usually have seven,” she said. “We opened the primary with only three. COVID is causing an issue.”
Ellifritz says she expects a larger in-person turnout in November.
“We’re looking at 11,000 to 12,000 voters … but I don’t expect as many mail-in requests,” she said.
The exceptionally large number of mail-in ballots received during the June 9 primary election due to health concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic caused the county’s Opti-Scan ballot counting machine to repeatedly jam up, resulting in the process taking all night. At approximately 5 a.m., a sensor failed on the machine and a technician had to be called.
Results were not complete until the next morning.
Elifritz had told the commissioners during their July 28 meeting that a back-up Opti-Scan, currently housed in Hampshire County, will be brought to Mineral County for election night.
The spare machine was obtained several years ago when Mineral County experienced a breakdown in their machine, but was made available to both Mineral and Hampshire counties if needed and housed since then in Romney.
“Hampshire County no longer uses that equipment, so before the election we will have that machine here,” Ellifritz said.
Ellifritz said to purchase a replacement Opti-Scan machine would cost the county approximately $30,000.