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PNS Daily Newscast - October 29, 2020 


Trump supporters left to battle frigid temperatures in Omaha; absentee ballots surge in Tennessee.


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The Supreme Court blocks North Carolina and Pennsylvania Republicans from requiring ballots to be delivered by Election Day. And a Texas court is requiring masks at polling places.

ACLU: Online Absentee-Ballot Process an Obstacle for WV Voters

Voters in West Virginia must now go online to request an application for an absentee ballot. Critics of the system say it's tougher for older voters and those without internet access. (Adobe Stock)
Voters in West Virginia must now go online to request an application for an absentee ballot. Critics of the system say it's tougher for older voters and those without internet access. (Adobe Stock)
September 11, 2020

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The ACLU is calling on West Virginia's secretary of state to automatically mail absentee voter applications, as was done for the June primary.

As it stands now, for the November election, for the first time in the state's election history, voters need to access the voting application through an online portal to receive one by mail, or go to a county clerk's office in person, according to DiJon Stokes, voting-rights project director for the ACLU of West Virginia. He said that's a concern because many West Virginians don't have broadband access or access to transportation.

"That creates a bigger problem of internet access, and then of people's access to information," he said, "which is why we're asking the secretary of state's office to send out those absentee-ballot applications again, which they can do -- and which certain counties, like Lincoln County, are already doing."

He said his organization met with Secretary of State Mac Warner, who said he's leaving it up to county clerks to make the decision whether to send out absentee ballot applications. The website for registration information or an absentee ballot request is sos.wv.gov.

Even though the pandemic makes absentee voting more critical for older folks, fewer than 5% of West Virginia registered voters have applied for absentee ballots since they became available last month. Stokes said Warner thought the cost for the state to mail applications for the primary, about $900,000, was too prohibitive to do again. But Stokes said he thinks the state should be looking out for its aging population instead of focusing on the cost.

"These are people who want to participate in the political process, and for most people, voting is the one time they get a chance to participate in their government, to actually make a decision within their government," he said. "So, we don't feel like people should have to risk their lives, or even think about risking their lives, to vote."

County clerks will begin mailing out absentee ballots on Sept. 18 to those who have requested them, and they can be returned by mail if postmarked by Election Day. The last day to apply for an absentee ballot in the Mountain State is Oct. 28.

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Support for this reporting was provided by The Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Diane Bernard, Public News Service - WV