The 2020 general election is less than three weeks away with early voting beginning in Mingo County on Wednesday, Oct. 21. Early voting will take place in four areas of the county this year.

“This election is different than any other than we have ever had,” said Mingo County Clerk Judy Harvey.

The clerk said that there have been changes in early voting, prectict locations and poll worker training.

According to Deputy Clerk Angie Browning, a third location for early voting will be used during the general election. Early voting locations were set up in Gilbert and Kermit for this year’s primary election. Now, Mingo County voters may choose to also cast early votes in Matewan.

The Mingo County Commission had voted to establish the Gilbert and Kermit early voting locations to ease the burdens on polling places because of voter concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic as well as being able to physically meet all of the COVID-19 protocols and restrictions. Most recently, the county governing body has directed the clerk’s office to add a third location in Matewan. These locations are in addition to the early voting location that is set up each year in Williamson at the county courthouse.

Registered voters who choose to participate in early voting may use any of the four locations, according to Harvey and Browning. However, those who choose to vote on Nov. 3 can only vote in the precinct in which they are registered.

The decision to hold early voting in Matewan was made because of concerns about the social distancing capabilities of a church in Red Jacket that is used for a polling location. The commission could not find another site in that community that would be suitable for a polling place. The commissioners and clerk agreed an early voting location in Mateway could alleviate some of the concerns by reducing the number of voters on election day.

Browning said the locations and  of early voting are as follows:

• Williamson, Oct. 21-31, Mingo County Courthouse;

• Gilbert, Oct. 21-24, Larry Joe Harless Community Center;

• Matewan, Oct. 26-29, Matewan City Hall; and

• Kermit, Oct. 28-31, Kermit City Hall.

Early voting locations will be opened between the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Browning said except on Saturday, Oct. 24, and Saturday, Oct. 31. On those days, the time will be from 9 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Harvey said her office has sent out 526 absentee ballots for the general election as of presstime. The last day for voters to request absentee ballots is on Wednesday, Oct. 28. During the primary election, more than 900 voters requested to vote by absentee ballot.

“I don’t know why there is such a big deal being made about absentee voting,” Harvey said. “It is very safe and every absentee vote is counted.”

She said her staff cross-references each absentee ballot at every stage of the process from the time the request is received, when it is mailed to the voter and when it is returned to the courthouse.

“There are tracking points and safeguards in place,” Harvey said. “Absentee votes are really safe and no one should worry not here anyway.”

Harvey and Browning said there are three precinct location changes for the November election. Voters who normally vote at Williamson Towers in East Williamson will vote at the Williamson Fire Department this year. The change is because of fears by the facility’s management for potential COVID-19 exposure risks to building residents. This change was in place for the primary election held in May as well.

The other changes are Precincts 76-1 and 76-2 which vote in the Gilbert City Hall. According to Browning, anyone who votes at the city hall will now have to go to the Gilbert PK-8 School to cast their votes.

This change, again, was made by the county commission because of space concerns. The school had previously served as the polling place for those voters, however, a previous county clerk moved it to the city hall. The school has agreed to host the election and will use separate areas for each of the precincts and thereby reducing contact points. Also, the commissioners said the school provides more parking for voters.

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