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County clerk offices get in gear

With 22 days until Election Day, county clerks are gearing up to pull off what will be their sixth statewide election in three years.

"We have been busy," said Kanawha County Clerk Vera McCormick. "We haven't stopped."

"It seems like it's strengthening up and getting pretty busy," Putnam County Clerk Brian Wood said. "The closer it gets, the more intense it gets."

Ahead of each election, county clerks have to guide voters through a precise calendar of deadlines leading up to the actual day people go to the polls and vote.

The first of those deadlines for this election cycle comes Tuesday - the last day for new voters to register to vote in the Nov. 6 election.

As that deadline looms, Wood is seeing a late surge in the number of people coming in to register.

"We had 12 people register to vote between 4 and 7 p.m. Thursday," he said. "We've seen a pickup. You usually don't have 12 people come in to register in that short of a time."

Wood said he thought the presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney two weeks ago, and with the vice-presidential debate between Vice President Joe Biden and Republican Paul Ryan, increased voter interest in early October.

But while Wood has seen an increase ahead of the deadline, on a statewide basis, new voter registration totals are down when compared to the last presidential election cycle.

According to Secretary of State Natalie Tennant's office, 47,717 new voters registered across the state between January and September of this year. That's down 25.7 percent from the 64,258 during the same time frame in 2008.

Despite a drop in registrations, McCormick thinks voter turnout this year will be about the same as 2008.

"I look for a good turnout," McCormick said.

Her office had processed about 1,000 absentee ballot requests as of Friday, less than half the 2,300 ballots it sent out last year. Voters still have until Oct. 31 to request absentee ballots, and McCormick thinks the number will hit 2,300 by then.

Statewide, voters requested 17,598 absentee ballots in 2008. Only 15,263 were returned.

So far this year, voters have requested 8,601 absentee ballots, with 2,811 ballots returned so far. About 51 percent of those returned are from Democrats, 38 percent are from Republicans and about 11 percent are from voters with no party affiliation.

That's roughly in line with the 2008 election, when 52 percent of absentee ballots were from Democrats, nearly 36 percent were from Republicans and 11 percent were from independents. The remaining portion was from people registered with the Mountain or other political party.

In addition to requesting paper absentee ballots, Secretary of State's office spokesman Jake Glance said overseas voters do have an option for online ballot delivery, meaning a voter overseas can request an absentee ballot.

"They cannot, however, 'vote' that ballot online," Glance said. "They have to either mark it online, print it, and either scan it, email it or mail it back, or print it out, mark it, and either scan it, email it or mail it back."

Like requesting a paper ballot, those wanting online ballot delivery must request an absentee ballot by Oct. 31.

The state's early voting period will run from Wednesday, Oct. 24 through Saturday, Nov. 3, with voting available each day except Sunday, Oct. 28.

Both Kanawha and Putnam counties have the same hours for early voting: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday; and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.  

In Kanawha County, early voting will be held at the Voter's Registration office in the Judicial Annex along Quarrier Street.

McCormick said they would once again block off a few parking spaces directly outside the office so voters can come in and out with ease.

Early voting in Putnam County will be available on the second floor of the county courthouse in Winfield. Wood said more information about the election, precinct guides and election results is available at visit www.putnamelections.com.

Wood was also gearing up for poll worker training this week. He said he still needed some workers for the county's 47 precincts.

He said any registered voter living in Putnam County is eligible to serve as a poll worker. While there are only a limited number of positions available, Wood said anyone interested should let his office know.

"We always want to keep a list on hand, because on presidential races we keep more people at the polls," he said. "We run though our list pretty quickly."

McCormick held some poll worker training classes last week. While they have workers lined up, McCormick said she would like to have some back-ups ready in case someone can't make it out on Election Day.

"We need alternate poll workers," she said. "To be an alternate poll worker they just need to have transportation to the polls and a phone so we can get in touch with them."

Contact writer Jared Hunt at jared.hunt@dailymail.com or 304-348-5148.


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