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WV Official: Voters Protected from Intimidation Tactics

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Quarantined West Virginians or those who have the coronavirus can call county clerks to find a designated polling place on Election Day to cast a ballot in person. (Adobe stock)
Quarantined West Virginians or those who have the coronavirus can call county clerks to find a designated polling place on Election Day to cast a ballot in person. (Adobe stock)
 By Diane Bernard, Public News Service - WV - Producer, Contact
November 2, 2020

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- With fears of voter intimidation at the polls on Election Day running high, West Virginians can rest easy, as state officials say rules are in place to protect voters.

Donald Kersey, general counsel for the West Virginia's Secretary of State Elections Division, said state laws require campaigners to stay at least 100 feet outside of polling places.

And voters take note: Laws also prevent folks from wearing any campaign paraphernalia within the polling place and the 100-foot zone.

Kersey said a person with a candidate's slogan or name on a shirt, hat or even mask will be asked to remove the item or turn a shirt inside out to avoid political messaging. But if someone refuses, poll workers will document the incident and report it to the Elections Division.

"And after the election, our investigations division will follow up, and any action that needs to be taken will be decided internally," Kersey explained. "And if it is something that rises to the level of a criminal offense, we will refer that to a prosecuting attorney."

He added messages for societal change or that are popular with nonprofit groups are covered under free-speech protection.

Kersey noted West Virginians already are setting records by casting more early-voting and absentee ballots as of Saturday than in the 2016 presidential election.

Now that early in-person voting is over, he said even people who have tested positive for the virus or are quarantined, will be able to safely vote in person tomorrow.

"Counties are working with their local health departments to design their locations safely," Kersey stressed. "Some even have polling places currently designated for voters who have come into contact with the virus, and they call the county clerk and they will be directed to one of those locations in the county if they're able to get there."

Absentee ballots postmarked by tomorrow will be accepted until Nov. 9.

Kersey reassured voters despite the six-day lag time in counting those absentee ballots, folks still can expect winners to be declared shortly after Election Day.

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