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W.Va. counties shifting polling places

Voters in at least seven counties will have to divert to different polling places or cast their ballot inside a National Guard tent as part of extraordinary Election Day measures made in response to Superstorm Sandy.

Secretary of State Natalie Tennant briefed reporters on post-Sandy Election Day contingency plans Monday afternoon.

Even though some parts of the state are still dealing with power outages and blocked roads, Tennant said her office has worked with the National Guard and local officials to make sure polling places will be up and running today.  

"We are ready and prepared for Election Day," Tennant said.

At least 14 precincts in five counties - Lewis, Preston, Randolph, Tucker and Upshur - will be moved to 10 temporary voting locations today.

Multiple precincts in Preston and Upshur counties were consolidated into temporary sites.

Tennant said her office and local officials were working with the media in those areas to inform voters about the change.

"Election officials will not be calling voters to tell them their precinct has changed," Tennant said.

The Secretary of State's office has received complaints from voters in the past, saying they received fraudulent calls claiming a precinct had changed. Tennant said she wants to maintain the precedent of not notifying voters of changes by phone.

She said voters should report any calls they receive to the election fraud division. Tennant's offices can be reached at 866-SOS-VOTE.

"We want to know about these calls because in some cases, these calls will be false," Tennant said. "We want you to contact us . . . because we are the office with the authority to investigate any elections law violations."

The Secretary of State's office has also set up an online map to help identify precincts that are changing. It can be viewed at www.sos.wv.gov.

There were also other polling places in Nicholas, Barbour and Tucker counties still without power Monday.

Rather than moving these locations, officials have decided to set up special National Guard Deployable Rapid Assembly Shelters, also called DRASH tents, at these precincts.

Each tent is equipped with a generator, which can power voting machines, lights and heat for voters.

Tennant said these tents would be set up directly in front of the normal polling places. She said there was at least one tent in use in Tucker County and three being used in Barbour County.

Members of the West Virginia National Guard would be on site at these locations to make sure the locations continue to have power and can adequately house voters.  

"We view this duty as very important for the people of West Virginia," National Guard Adj. Gen. James Hoyer said in a statement.  

"The great thing is that we were able to accomplish this mission without affecting our current operations in providing support and relief around the state from the storm," Hoyer said.

While officials have to adapt to the storm, Tennant said election officials are still focused on keeping the election free of any voter fraud or abuse.

"Our eyes have not been taken off knowing we have to have integrity in our elections process," she said.

Several staff members from the Secretary of State's office will be deployed at locations across the state to provide "boots on the ground" monitoring, Tennant said.

In addition to finding precinct information, Tennant said voters can go to the website to view a list of voter rights.   

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


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