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Heading to the Polls for Early Voting

Photo by Joselyn King – Voters wait in line outside the City-County Building in Wheeling on the first day of early voting in West Virginia.

WHEELING — The first day of early voting in West Virginia was a busy one in Northern Panhandle counties, all of which reported higher turnout numbers than expected.

More than 30 people were lined up outside the City-County Building in Wheeling when the doors to early voting in Ohio County opened at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Once inside, voters stood in a socially distanced line outside the voting area on the first floor of the City-County Building. At times Wednesday, the line reached all the way down the hall past the water department offices, according to Toni Chieffalo, coordinator of elections.

“No, I didn’t expect this,” Chieffalo said. “I thought it would be busy, but it has been non-stop since we opened up.

“It seems everybody wants to vote this time. It’s an important election.”

By the end of the day Wednesday, 472 had cast ballots in Ohio County — almost one per minute during the eight-hour voting period.

In Marshall County, voters started to line up as early as 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, County Clerk Jan Pest said. The doors opened for voting there at 8:30 a.m. By 8:45 a.m., 33 ballots had been cast, she said.

Voters in Marshall County are being asked to wait in line outside the courthouse, with no more than eight being allowed into the voting area at a time.

“We had a very, very busy morning,” Pest said. “I knew we were going to be busy when I saw the line all the way back to the monument on the courthouse lawn.

“I knew we would be busy. But I didn’t anticipate this.”

As of 3:30 p.m., more than 300 had early voted in Marshall County.

At 4 p.m., Hancock County reported 192 had voted there and that a long line of voters still remained. Polls closed there at 4:30 p.m.

“We had a great turnout today,” elections clerk Jeanne Ostrander said. “We weren’t sure whether we would have a high turnout, but we were getting a high volume of phone calls with questions.

“We were hoping to have a lot of people because early voting for the primary election was really slow.”

Other counties reported high voting totals by late afternoon.

Brooke County reported around 319 early voters; Tyler County, 123; and Wetzel County, more than 150.

Among the early voters standing in line in Ohio County was Sylvia Madzunovic of Wheeling — a German native who recently became a U.S. citizen and was voting in her first election. She has lived in America a number of years and witnessed a number of elections, she said.

“But what I’ve seen in this election cycle — it’s a little bizarre,” Madzunovic said.

Polling in West Virginia shows President Donald Trump with a commanding lead in the race for president. But some waiting to vote in Ohio County indicated differing sentiments.

Standing first in line were Gene and Janine South of Triadelphia.

“I would like to vote some people out. They don’t need to be there,” Gene South said.

He said he was “not really” happy with either presidential candidate — neither the Republican Trump nor his Democrat opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden.

“But one is better than the other, I hope,” he said.

Janine South said she had voted in past elections, and the candidate she voted for “didn’t get in.”

“This time I want to make sure this time the one I don’t want is getting out,” she said.

Lynn Davidson of Wheeling was more specific about which candidate she opposed.

“I don’t want my children to have a president like Trump,” she said.

Ohio County Dog Warden Doug McCroskey waited in line with family members to vote.

“It’s my job (to vote),” he said.

Eve Brill of Wheeling said she wasn’t happy with either candidate for president.

“Still, it’s my duty (to vote),” she said.

George South offered his observation on the current political scene.

“It seems like the Democrats have half a brain, and the Republicans have half a brain,” he said. “If these people would just work together … “

Face coverings are required inside of polling places by Governor’s Executive Order 50-20. Certain exceptions apply to those with medical conditions, according to information provided by the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office.

Hand sanitizer will be available at the polls, and poll workers have been provided with masks, face shields and gloves.

No person may be turned away from the polls, the governor’s information states. However, voters who do not follow the governor’s mandate may be asked to wear a face-covering while near others inside the polling place, or to otherwise vote at a location within the polling place that is a safe distance away from others.

When going to the polls, West Virginia voters should remember to bring proper idengtification. Among the forms accepted are voter registration cards, a driver’s licence, birth certificate, West Virginia hunting or fishing license, bank card, utility bill or any document issued by the state or federal government displaying the voter’s name.

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