FAIRMONT — Marion County elections officials set up voting machines to be ready for the first onslaught of voters at 8:30 on Wednesday morning, the first day of early voting in West Virginia. What they found was a line had begun forming more than half an hour before polls opened.
Marion County Clerk Julie Kincaid recalled the scene as she arrived at her office in the Marion County Courthouse Wednesday morning.
“I arrived about 10 to 8 this morning, there were folks on the sidewalk waiting to get into the building, and were backed up to just about the road,” Kincaid said. “We were very surprised to see them, however, very excited.”
Early voting sites in Marion County include the J. Harper Meredith Building, the White Hall Public Safety Building and Farmington Town Hall and allow any registered voter to cast a ballot even if that site is not physically in the voter’s normal precinct. Early votes can be cast from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. until Oct. 31. Kincaid said the participation in this election has already been good with the amount of absentee ballots applied for and returned, and the early voting numbers could potentially set records for Marion County turnout.
According to data from the West Virginia Secretary of State website, 4,869 absentee ballots were requested by Marion County voters for Nov. 3. To date, 3,161 have been received in the Marion County Clerk’s office. Statewide, 139,954 West Virginia registered voters requested absentee ballots and, to date, 95,844 voters have already sent their ballots back in to their county clerk.
“If this response continues, I think the election day turnout could be a little smaller,” Kincaid said. “I wouldn’t be shocked if we had a record number this year. This election is very important and folks are very, very interested, and it’s generating a lot of speculation, so I think we’re going to see big numbers.”
At around 3:30 p.m., the voter turnout at the White Hall Public Safety Building was similar to that of Fairmont. Cindy Irons, commissioner messenger in the County Clerk’s office, was helping to oversee the site, and said the number of people who voted there also set a high bar.
“We have had 357 so far,” Irons. “That’s more in one day than we had in 10 days in the primary. We had people in line at 8 a.m. We couldn’t open polls until 8:30, and we had 57 in the first half hour.”
Despite the constant long lines, Kincaid said the poll workers were able to maintain a steady flow of people throughout the day, although their slow moments would not last too long.
“We got everyone in in an orderly fashion, we still maintained social [distancing] guidelines, we were keeping everyone separated six feet,” Kincaid said. “The folks made it in to vote, the line cleared out, and another one formed.”
Kincaid said this amount of participation in early voting is a good sign for her and the County Clerk’s office, and it could indicate that the county will get more early voter turnout than turnout on election day.
“There is some relief that comes with this part of early votes,” Kincaid said. “We have still got a pretty good mountain to climb at this point.”