WHEELING - West Virginians will head to the polls Tuesday to select their next governor.
Among the candidates voters have to choose from are acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, a Democrat; Republican businessman Bill Maloney; and Mountain Party candidate Bob Henry Baber. Also appearing on the ballot are Independent candidate Marla Ingalls and American Third Position candidate Harry Bertram.
Voting precincts across the state open at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, and close at 7:30 p.m. General elections typically take place in November. But by definition, a "special" election is an election held to fill a political office that has become vacant between regularly scheduled elections.
Last year, West Virginians participated in a special election for U.S. Senate following the death of U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd.
Then-Gov. Joe Manchin won that election, resulting in this year's special election to fill the remainder of Manchin's term in Charleston.
There has never before been a special election for governor in West Virginia. Whoever wins the election must take office prior to Nov. 15 - one year to the date of Manchin's resignation as governor. The winner can seek re-election to a full four-year term next year, but is prohibited from running again in 2016.
The first thing voters will see on their ballot Tuesday is the option to vote a straight party ticket, even though the governor's race is the only contest to be decided.
"We questioned that, but the Secretary of State's Office tells us it's the law that it has to be on there for a general election," said Toni Chieffalo, Ohio County's elections coordinator.
Early voting ended Saturday throughout West Virginia, with higher than expected numbers being reported in most counties.
"I am really surprised at the turnout for early voting - we did good every day," Chieffalo said. "We had 150 every day. If early voting is a sign, voting on Tuesday will be a lot busier than expected."
She remains skeptical, though, as the early voting numbers will not necessarily translate into a higher overall turnout for the election.
"I'm predicting 12 percent," Chieffalo said, a turnout percentage on par with last year's special election for U.S. Senate. "We might have a few more people."
Marshall County Clerk Jan Pest said early voting in her county was steady, but predicts a light overall turnout.
"But the early voters are our voters," she noted. "These are the people who would vote anyway. There is no indication that there will be a higher turnout."
Along with the five candidates whose names appear on the ballot, voters also have the option of typing in on their voting machine one of three certified write-in candidates in the race for governor: John R. "Rick" Bartlett of Kingwood; Phil Hudok of Huttonsville; or Donald Lee Underwood of Buffalo.
Two local counties also will put issues before voters on Oct. 4.
In Wetzel County, voters will be asked to approve an additional levy for emergency services in the county for five years. The levy would generate up to $1.5 million maximum over the five-year period for fire service, and a maximum of $1 million for ambulance services during the period.
And in Hancock County, there is a levy to benefit the county animal shelter. Ballot language states the goal of the levy is to raise $100,000 for the animal shelter during each of the 2012, 2013 and 2014 fiscal years.