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Polls are closed in West Virginia

In the run-up to Election Day, Mountain State Spotlight reporters fanned out across West Virginia to find out what was on the minds of our neighbors.

As you went to the polls, we did the same. The results, the voices of West Virginians, are below. After all, aren’t elections really about you and your family, not any candidate or political poll or attack ad?

We’ll have more about what it all means tomorrow.

For now, we encourage you to check out our friends at West Virginia Public Broadcasting as they monitor the results this evening.

ACLU fields COVID-19 complaints

5:18 p.m.: Many of the complaints received by the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia on their voting hotline Tuesday had to do with COVID-19 complications.

“We’ve received calls today from a few family members of folks who were hospitalized with COVID-19 in the past couple of days and were having some issues with requesting emergency ballots,” said ACLU-WV spokesman Billy Wolfe. “The problem in those cases was that the hospitals did not want an election worker entering a quarantined floor to deliver the ballot.”

He said the ACLU-WV put employees of the Secretary of State’s Office in touch with hospital administrators, and the problems were resolved.

A few people complained about poll workers not wearing masks, Wolfe said, and one voter reported they and others who had to use provisional ballots were asked to remove their masks to lick envelopes.

In addition, there were questions about voter ID requirements and accessibility for the disabled at polling places, Wolfe said.

— Greg Moore

Turnout could set record, official says

4:42 p.m.: With 394,476 votes already counted before Election Day due to early votes and absentee ballots, West Virginia election officials say there could be historic turnout.

“Typically the majority of votes are cast in-person on Election Day,” said Secretary of State Mac Warner during a Tuesday press conference. “If we see that happening today we will indeed have a record-setting election today.”

Warner said while lines haven’t been excessively long, there’s been a steady flow of voters at polling places throughout the state.

For the past three presidential elections, turnout in West Virginia has hovered around 55% to 57%. In the 2016 general election, 732,362 West Virginians voted, which was 57.4% of registered voters. In 2012, 685,099 people cast a ballot, which was 55% of registered voters; in the 2008 general election, 702,109 West Virginians voted, or 57.9% of those registered. 
Mike Queen, spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s office, said the office was looking at the total number of votes and not the percentage in determining the record setting turnout. He said the office was basing the projected “record” turnout on records the office had going back to 2008 and the memory of staffers that say it was the highest since 2000.

— Douglas Soule

Voters report wrong date on election receipts in Jefferson County

3:45 p.m.: Some voters in Jefferson County, W.Va. got a receipt after they voted today with the wrong date, but a county employee there says there’s no cause for concern.

A voter at a polling place at Asbury United Methodist Church in Charles Town noticed that the receipt they were given after voting had Monday’s date, Nov. 2. Several other people remarked on the mistake, the voter said, but a poll worker dismissed their concerns.

A deputy clerk in the Jefferson County Clerk’s office said the voting machines being used would not allow workers to change the date, but that votes cast today would not be affected. “Those receipts are just for our internal use,” the clerk said.

This story was produced with the help of tips reported through ProPublica’s Electionland project. If you experience or witness a problem voting, please let us know.

— Greg Moore

A first-time voter returns home to Flatwoods to cast a ballot

3:30 p.m.: Voters trickled in throughout the day in two Braxton County polling places: Sutton and Flatwoods.

Lilly Ware. Photo by Amelia Ferrell Knisely

In Flatwoods, 19-year-old Lilly Ware came home from West Virginia University to vote for the first time alongside her parents.

“It’s important for my future,” she said.

— Amelia Ferrell Knisely

In Charleston, voters talk Trump, broadband

2:45 p.m.: Joshua A. Dalton, 33, walked out of John Adams Middle School in Charleston, W.Va. after voting for the first time.

“Every vote matters,” he said. “I didn’t really seem to care that much up until now.”

Joshua Dalton. Photo by Douglas Soule

A registered Republican, Dalton said he voted for some Democrats on the ballot. He cast his presidential vote for Donald Trump.

“I feel he has more of a passion for our future,” he said. “I’m just tired of the fake news, I’m tired of the corruption and he seems he might do a little bit more about it.”

Dalton said he doesn’t believe either Trump or Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden are evil men.

“One way or the other, hopefully whoever gets elected does some beneficial things for our country,” he said. 

At the same polling place, Sarah Midle had local issues in mind. Midle recently moved to Charleston from Kentucky; this was her first time voting in West Virginia, and she held a paper listing the candidates she voted for.

Sarah Midle. Photo by Douglas Soule

When asked what local issues matter to her, she quickly replied: “Broadband.”

“I live in an area where my internet is just horrific, and with coronavirus my husband and I are both working from home,” Midle said. “It’s a huge issue for us to both be able to use the internet at the same time working in an office setting and not have it drop constantly.”

Midle said internet speed wasn’t an issue where she used to live in rural Kentucky and was surprised by it when she came to Charleston.

“It is 2020,” she said.

— Douglas Soule

Divergent votes on jobs in Boone County

2:15 p.m.: Denise Kennedy, 62, is a retired Boone County elementary teacher. She’s a lifelong Democrat and voted a straight party ticket, despite many of her neighbors fleeing the party as local mining jobs disappeared.

“I believe coal is never coming back, we need to find new revenue here like marijuana,” Kennedy said.

Denise Kennedy. Photo by Lucas Manfield

Education continues to be her number one issue, and she cites cuts to her insurance and Republican Gov. Jim Justice’s handling of the pandemic as reasons to vote him out of office.

“I think he’s got his little box of crayons and just makes it up as it goes; you can’t look at his map versus the Harvard map and think his map is smarter,” Kennedy said.

She supports West Virginia Delegate Ralph Rodighiero, who is backed by the teachers’ union, in the local state Senate race. “He supported the teachers,” she said.

Chalsey White. Photo by Lucas Manfield

Also in Boone County, Chalsey White, 30, voted for the first time. White works as a dietary aid at Charleston Area Medical Center, and is recovering from substance abuse.

“I’m not really a political person,” she said, but her mom convinced her to come vote. “It feels good,” she said.

White said she wants to see Trump bring more jobs back to Boone, “and make America great again, you know what I mean?”

— Lucas Manfield

Voting on local issues in Braxton County

1:10 p.m.: Terry Reynolds, 60, was up early to vote this morning in downtown Sutton, W.Va.

Terry Reynolds. Photo by Amelia Ferrell Knisely

A lifelong resident of the town, she said it was important to vote for national and local candidates, especially in the Braxton County sheriff’s race. This official will work to address the opioid epidemic that has hit her community.

“If we don’t fix it in our community, then we won’t fix it in the United States of America,” Reynolds said.

— Amelia Ferrell Knisely

Hoping for unity and acceptance in Parkersburg

12:30 p.m.: Traffic was slow at a polling place in downtown Parkersburg, W.Va. on Tuesday.

Outside the polling place, 25-year-old Tyler Davis said he’s concerned about civil liberties and civil rights.

Tyler Davis. Photo by Lauren Peace

“I hope we can find some harmony in the next four years,” Davis said. “I hope we elect a leader who brings us together.”

Davis said he wants to return to a place where Americans can engage in civil discourse without threat or intimidation.

“As a lesbian, I care about gay rights,” said Ivie Minney, 24. “Our rights are being threatened, and that shows that we’re not the secular nation we claim to be.

“I hope my rights won’t be reduced. I hope for acceptance on a national scale.”

Ivie Minney. Photo by Lauren Peace

Nearby, 34-year-old Jimmy Carrano also sported an “I Voted” sticker.

“I’m not really a party person, I’m more of an issues person,” Carrano said. “I think we need more socialistic policies and less lobbying. We need to replace the politicians in charge of handling climate policy with scientists. We need to replace the people in charge of education policy with professors.”

Jimmy Carrano. Photo by Lauren Peace

His hope for the next four years?

“Not to die. I wish I could sound more optimistic!”

— Lauren Peace

A voter switches parties over health care in Logan, W.Va.

11:45 a.m.: In Logan County, West Virginia, traffic was slow at one local polling place Tuesday morning. A poll worker said there had been 34 voters by 11 a.m.

The Logan County Board of Education building
on Election Day 2020. Photo by Lucas Manfield

Shortly after, Donna Williams, 50, came to cast her vote. Williams grew up in neighboring Boone County and has lived in Logan for six years.

“This area had been forgotten about. It didn’t take a day to mess up everything, so Trump couldn’t fix it in four years,” she said.

Williams voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, but became disillusioned with the Democratic party after her husband lost his job as a welder for the mining industry. They couldn’t afford insurance, and she says dumping Obamacare and fixing the health care system is the biggest thing she wants Trump to get fixed.

“I hope he can get help from the Democrat party,” Williams said.

— Lucas Manfield

In Mason County, voters share motivations

11:00 a.m.: 75% of Mason County, W.Va. voters went for President Donald Trump in 2016, and while it’s too early to know if that trend will continue this year, Trump campaign signs still dot the roadways.

At a polling place in Point Pleasant, traffic was slow but steady, and voters entering a local polling place wore masks.

Golden and Anna Herdman have lived in Point Pleasant for 55 years, and said they vote every year.

Golden and Anna Herdman. Photo by Lauren Peace

“I’m concerned about global warming and the tension in our country,” Anna Herdman said.

“We’re both retired so it doesn’t impact us, but I’m concerned about the economy, too,” added Golden.

James Lilly. Photo by Lauren Peace

While the Herdmans have been voting for decades, it’s the first time at the polls for 35-year-old James Lilly. He says he’s motivated by a desire to vote against the president.

“Getting out here for my first time,” Lilly said. “I’m just trying to get Trump out of office. That’s my main objective.”

Trevon Franklin. Photo by Lauren Peace

Trevon Franklin is Point Pleasant born-and-raised.

“Now more than ever, I want to see change,” Franklin said. “Voters in the past have been lackadaisical, but my generation is trying to change that. We want unity.”

Scott Crawford. Photo by Lauren Peace

For Scott Crawford, this feels like a consequential election.

“I feel like constitutional rights are at stake. A lot of liberties are at stake,” said Crawford.

Crawford was looking forward to collecting another “I voted” sticker. He says he collects them every presidential election, writes the candidate who he voted for on the back and keeps them in a book at home.

“I’ve gotten 5 of the past 7 right,” Crawford said.

— Lauren Peace

Nearly 400,000 West Virginians vote early or absentee as of Tuesday morning

10:33 a.m.: As of Tuesday morning, at least 394,476 West Virginians have voted, between early voting and absentee ballots, according to unofficial data from the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office. 

Around 92% of all absentee ballots requested have been returned. 

About 37% of the early and absentee ballots cast were by registered Republicans. Around 41% were cast by registered Democrats. Another 21% of ballots were from people who unaffiliated or were registered to another party.

Data from West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office.

These combined voting numbers mean that about 168,000 more West Virginians voted early and absentee this year than during the last presidential election. This represents around 31% of the state’s registered voters, but doesn’t take into account those heading to the polls on Election Day, or any absentee ballots that haven’t yet been received by county clerks. Voter turnout for the 2016 general election was 57.4%.

The last day to postmark an absentee ballot is Election Day. If you’re a West Virginian who still hasn’t postmarked your absentee ballot and worry that it won’t arrive in time to count (your county clerk must receive it by Nov. 9), you can bring it to your polling place. That ballot will be “spoiled” by a poll worker, and you’ll be allowed to vote.

— Douglas Soule

Slow but steady traffic in Point Pleasant

9:30 a.m.: In Point Pleasant, West Virginia, traffic at a local polling place is slow, but steady. Everyone is wearing masks, as officials have been recommending to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

A polling site in Point Pleasant, W.Va. Photo by Lauren Peace

One of the voters this morning is 42-year-old Melissa Tench, who lives in Point Pleasant. She says she’s voted in every election and is voting again this year. She has a newborn baby at home.

“I don’t like the direction we’re going. I think we definitely need a change,” Tench said. “I care most about the presidential election but there are some local candidates I’m here to support, too.”

— Lauren Peace

W.Va’s chief election officer does some last-minute campaigning

8:30 a.m: Vote for me: From the guy in charge of West Virginia’s election.

West Virginia voters were greeted this Election Day morning with an email blast from the reelection campaign of Secretary of State Mac Warner, the chief elections officer.

“Election Day is here!” read the subject line of the email, which featured images of Warner and President Donald Trump. It went out before polls across the Mountain State had opened.

The email touted voting in person as “the gold standard.” Warner has been criticized for not doing enough prior to today to make voting by mail available to all West Virginians.

Warner, a Republican, faces Democrat Natalie Tennant in his reelection bid. — Ken Ward Jr.

Polls are open in West Virginia

7:45 a.m.: Happy Election Day, West Virginia! Polls are open today throughout the state until 7:30 p.m. Here’s how to find your polling place. If you requested and received an absentee ballot and haven’t yet submitted it, it must be either postmarked by today, or you can take it to your local polling place, where it will be “spoiled” by a poll worker and you’ll be allowed to vote. If you didn’t get your absentee ballot in time, go to your polling place and you’ll be allowed to cast a provisional ballot.

Here’s some other key election information.

Mountain State Spotlight reporters will be at polling places around West Virginia today, talking to voters; we’ll be updating this post frequently with their reporting, as well as with any known voting issues in the state. If you see a problem as you’re voting, let us know: you can text “BALLOT” to 304-413-8889 or use this form.