The 2020 general election held many twists and turns, surprises and upsets, both on the local and national levels. And in Mingo County, the election cycle has not yet ended.

Two days after the election, the staff of the Mingo County Clerk’s Office was faced with a possible COVID-19 exposure after one of the deputy clerks tested positive for the virus. The office has been closed since that time. Because of this, the official canvass has not been conducted nor have the election results been certified.

This happenstance normally would not have significant ramifications, but this year, one race — that of the Mingo County prosecutor — is still hanging in the balance. Throughout election night, as returns came in, incumbent Prosecutor Duke Jewell held the lead over his Republican challenger Brock Mounts. Then, as the last few precincts reported, Mounts started pulling ahead. When the final report was made public, Jewell regained the lead and narrowly retained his seat by only a dozen votes.

A very large number of Mingo County residents turned out to vote on Nov. 3. Even so, with the number of outstanding absentee votes and provisional ballots that have yet to be factored in, that race could change once the canvass takes place.

This is the perfect case that truly brings home the point that every person’s vote does emphatically matter. This was similar to the county clerk’s race four years ago, when incumbent Big Jim Hatfield barely held onto the Democratic nomination for that office in the primary election against Larry “Yogi” Croaff. That race was decided by 17 votes.

The timeworn clichés that “my vote doesn’t matter,” or “one vote isn’t going to make any difference,” may have some validity in a nationwide election. However, in local settings, they do not hold water. In local races each candidate lives or dies by every vote that is cast. Many local residents, based on the numbers of votes cast this year, believed their vote was important and did matter. And, they acted upon that fact.

Mingo County Clerk Judy Harvey was excited about the turnout for the 2020 general election. The county registration records show there are 20,158 voters in Mingo County; of that number more than slightly more than 10,000 Mingo County voters cast their ballots. That is a whopping 50 percent. For Mingo County, that is a record.

Early and absentee voting accounted for 3,143 of those ballots or right at one-third of the total vote count. Again, this is a record for Mingo County that could stand for many years to come.

Other than one technical issue with a voting machine, the large turnout was the biggest issue the clerk’s office faced this year. That is one problem which is good to have. Based on early voting numbers and talk throughout the county, Harvey had an indication that a high turnout was likely. Her office ordered additional ballots that came in just in time for the big day.

“This was the biggest election Mingo County has ever had,” Deputy Clerk Angie Browning told the Mingo Messenger. “It was all we could do to keep ballots at all the precincts. We were at almost every precinct throughout the day.”

The large number of voters also brought about another change. For the first time in anyone’s memory a Republican candidate has been elected to the Mingo County Commission. Political newcomer Gavin Smith was able to unseat the 18-year Democratic incumbent Greg “Hootie” Smith.

We at the Mingo Messenger truly appreciate every voter who participated in this year’s general election. Each vote is an exercise of the rights, freedoms and privileges afforded to the citizens of this country. Each vote validates every battle that has been fought to secure those rights since 1776. Each vote ensures this unique experiment known as American democracy, crazy as it appears, is still alive and kicking and will remain strong well into the future.

Thank you to all who voted in any form. May the 2024 elections be just as chaotic and strange. If so, we may have a strong turnout once again. God bless America and long may its colors wave.

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