With the 2011 special gubernatorial special election approaching, employees of The Lincoln Journal were somewhat surprised recently when a mailing was received from a group called West Virginia Advocates. The mailing from the organization, based in Charleston and claiming to represent people with disabilities, included, among other things, a duplicated absentee ballot application.
Since absentee ballots and, specifically, absentee ballot applications had become the focal point of a 2010 election controversy in Lincoln County, newspaper reporters were intrigued that the application was reproduced in the mailing. In addition, in sections detailing the process used to cast absentee ballots, the mailing purported to answer questions voters might have about using the applications. The major outcome of last year’s Lincoln County case was a decision by the special circuit judge in the matter that all portions of absentee ballot applications must be completed by the voter who casts an absentee ballot.
Nevertheless, nothing in the West Virginia Advocates mailing pointed out the need for the voter him or herself to do so. An examination of the application also found that nothing on the form itself detailed the requirement that the form had to be completed by the voter “in his or her own handwriting,” as the judge ordered last year.
Now, more than a year later, several local officials remain even more perplexed about how absentee ballots and absentee ballot applications are being handled around the state, in light of the Lincoln County case of 2010.
Some Lincoln County officials continue to insist that the county received a great deal of negative publicity for “doing nothing other than what everyone else did — and still does — with regard to absentee ballots.”
Much of the negative publicity, which culminated in vote recounts and court cases, involved the application process and counting of absentee ballots. As a result of the court cases, one Lincoln County contest’s announced results were reversed.
At the heart of the controversy is a provision in the West Virginia Code’s third chapter that says, “Upon oral or written request, the official designated to supervise and conduct absentee voting shall provide to any voter of the county, in person, by mail, or electronically the appropriate application for voting absentee by mail as provided in this article. The voter shall complete and sign the application in his or her own handwriting or, if the voter is unable to complete the application because of illiteracy or physical disability, the person assisting the voter and witnessing the mark of the voter shall sign his or her name in the space provided.”
Full Article: Absentee ballot confusion persists.