The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

November 8, 2012

Higher voter turnout seen across region

By Sarah Plummer
Register-Herald Reporter

— Despite some early polling locations losing as many as three days due to Superstorm Sandy, county clerks across the region reported a higher than average early voter turnout, which in turn echoed a generally high voter turnout overall.

In Raleigh County, 4,902 voters cast their ballot early leading to an overall voter turnout of 52.19 percent, larger than the 2008 presidential election, but not the 60 percent the county saw in 2004, said county clerk Betty Riffe.

Fayette County clerk Kelvin Holliday put overall voter turnout numbers in perspective, explaining that as the DMV pulls in large numbers of individuals who register as they get a photo ID, few people are registering purposely to vote.

“I don’t think we will ever see a two-thirds vote county-wide again with the emphasis on registering to vote at the DMV,” he said.

Fayette saw just over 53 percent turnout. While that is a sharp drop from 2008, Holliday notes the number of registered voters has increased dramatically.

In all 14,255 of 26,826 registered voters in Fayette cast ballots.

“We saw a lot of lines Tuesday, which to me is a good problem to have. It shows that a lot of people are interested in their government and want to make a difference going forward,” he said.

And Holliday notes early voting in Fayette, with 2,502 early voters and 230 absentees ballots, was substantial this year, too.

“Those numbers are especially good when you consider we lost three days in the middle of last week. During the day we had our Montgomery location up and running, but our other remote location in Danese and our main center here in Fayetteville were closed,” he stated.

Summers County Clerk Mary Beth Merritt said they saw a greater turnout than in the past for early, and total voter turnout.

She reported 52.48 percent of those registered voted and 17 percent of that total, around 1,646 individuals, cast an early ballot.

She explained that particularly with five days cut from early voting, the numbers are high. She said the courthouse was bustling all day during each day of early voting, and had there been an additional five days, she surmises there would have been an even greater turnout.

Monroe County Clerk Donald Evan said the county had the biggest early voting turnout they have ever had with 1,540 individuals casting an early ballot.

The overall turnout numbers fall in line with typical presidential election turnout. Monroe has 53.29 percent total turnout.

Greenbrier County Clerk Robin Loudermilk said 13,173 of more than 25,000 registered voters, just over 50 percent, voted.

She said the numbers show a larger turnout than in the past but they expected a heavy turnout for the presidential election as well as close local races.

Likewise, the Wyoming County clerk’s office said they saw a much bigger turnout than usual with 40.38 percent, with as little as 19 percent of registered voters turning out in the past. There were 1,121 early voters in Wyoming.

Nicholas County Clerk Audra Deitz explained that while a voter turnout of 53.4 percent, with 8,894 of 16,636 individuals voting, is typical for a presidential election, she deemed it a significant turnout considering the county is still recovering from the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.

Deitz says some residents are still without power and snow accumulation is still great in some areas.

“I think those people who really wanted to vote made sure they got out and voted,” she said.

Nicholas did have an increase in early voting from years past with more than 1,600.

— E-mail: splummer@register-herald.com