It’s three weeks until the election and Berkeley Springs is civically active and COVID positive.
Ballots are being requested and cast.
COVID is surging – up 19 cases in just the last two weeks – from 55 to 74 — a 25 percent increase.
According to the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office, as of today, 1,350 absentee ballots have been requested in Morgan County and 735 have been cast.
(Statewide, 120,770 absentee ballots have been requested and 65,801 have been cast.)
Absentee ballots can be mailed or hand delivered to the Morgan County Clerk’s office at the Courthouse. (There is no drop off box outside.)
The clerk goes to the Berkeley Springs Post Office every day to pick up the ballots. If mailed, the ballots should take no more than a couple of days to get to the clerk.
The last day to mail in a ballot is election day – November 3.
In person early voting will be conducted at the Morgan County Courthouse from October 21 to October 31 from 9 am to 5 pm.
Election day is November 3. Voting at 13 precincts throughout the county is between 6:30 am and 7:30 pm.
(The thirteen voting precincts in Morgan County are: Warm Springs Middle (1), Warm Springs Middle (2), Warm Springs Intermediate, Widmyer Elementary, Berkeley Springs High School, Morgan County Courthouse, School Board, Great Cacapon Elementary, Paw Paw Elementary, Love Assembly of God, Pleasant View Elementary, South Morgan Fire Department and Cacapon State Park Bathhouse.)
In the 2020 primary in Morgan County, there were 3,117 absentee ballots requested and 2,756 returned. Total ballots cast in the primary – 5,148. That means that 53 percent of voters in the primary voted absentee.
In the last Presidential general election in 2016, 7,795 voters cast their ballots in Morgan County.
If there is a similar turnout this year in the general election, we can expect about 4,100 people to vote absentee and about 3,700 to vote in person.
Do county clerks count absentee ballots at the courthouse as they come in?
“No,” says West Virginia Secretary of State spokesperson Jennifer Gardner. “County clerks may begin processing ballots at the start of early voting on October 21, but no tabulation will take place until the close of polls on election day.”
What does processing ballots mean?
“Counties verify the signatures as the ballots arrive, and once processing begins, they may begin scanning it into the system if they have a ballot scanner,” Gardner said. “Tabulation, however, may not happen until the close of polls on election day.”
Here are three key races for Morgan County.
Upset watch in the 59th House of Delegates District. This is going to be a barn burner. There are two self proclaimed conservative Republicans in the race – Republican Ken Reed and Patricia Adams, a former Republican running as an independent.
Reed and Adams are on track to split the Republican and conservative independent vote – maybe down the middle. Adams is carrying the banner of Delegate Larry Kump. Kump was defeated by Reed in the Republican primary.
There is no Democrat in the race, but there is a Mountain Party candidate by the name of Robert E. Smith who could squeeze through with 80 percent to 90 percent of the Democratic vote and a good chunk of independents.
Smith has mailed a postcard to all voters in the Morgan County part of the 59th district (the southern and eastern parts of the county) portraying himself as “a working class voice for Berkeley and Morgan counties.”
Smith promises to create manufacturing jobs, end the vehicle property tax, invest in high speed broadband and open the brewing and distillery industry.
“Charleston often fails to work for the people,” Smith writes. “The last thing we need is another career politician to ignore us, while they maintain the status quo. If you believe the establishment is doing a great job, then please don’t vote for me. If given a chance to serve, I want you to know I won’t take any marching orders from any party leadership. Your priorities come first.”
“Don’t hesitate to reach out and give me a holler: 304.707.2824,” Smith writes.
Toss up in the 58th House of Delegates District. Can’t go wrong either way in this one. Two decent non politicians – Democrat Tom Harden and Republican George Miller, who defeated Delegate Daryl Cowles in an upset.
Long shot in West Virginia Senate District 15. Mountain Party candidate Donald Kinnie is taking on Senator Craig Blair. There is no Democrat in the race. Blair narrowly defeated Ken Mattson in the Republican primary – 53 percent for Blair to 47 percent for Mattson
Kinnie, the son of a teacher, thinks that Blair is in serious trouble with the state’s teachers.
And it was teachers who propelled several upsets statewide in the recent Republican primary election — including the defeat of Senate President Mitch Carmichael by elementary school teacher Amy Nichole Grady and and the defeat of Delegate Daryl Cowles in the 58th by the teachers’ union backed candidacy of George Miller.