By Mary Catherine Brooks
Wyoming County Bureau Chief
In the upcoming primary election, Wyoming County voters will find several changes in the voting process. Paper ballots have been eliminated, so all voters will use an electronic voting machine. Some precincts have been consolidated and all have been renumbered. During the early voting period only, voters will have a choice of four voting locations.
Voters will also select the District 1 county commission seat, fill the unexpired term of the prosecuting attorney and name three board of education members in the separate non-partisan election also conducted May 13.
This year, the number of precincts has been reduced in Wyoming County — from 36 to 27 — and all precincts have been re-numbered, according to Mike Goode, county clerk who serves as county’s chief elections officer.
The new numbers also reflect the district — District 1, or Mullens areas; District 2, Pineville/Hanover areas; District 3, Oceana areas — in which the precinct lies. For example, Glen Fork precinct is now precinct 101, Ikes Fork is 201, Matheny is 301.
Consolidating the precincts will save just over $33,000 per election, Goode said.
“Some of these precincts are already voting in the same building; some of the others are in walking distance,” Goode said.
“In recent elections, we’ve had trouble getting poll workers and this should help,” he noted.
Also, voter turnout has been as low as 12 to 15 percent in recent elections, Goode said. In the Nov. 2 excess levy election, known locally as the free textbook levy, only 822 people voted.
Beginning this week, on April 24, letters will be mailed to nearly 17,000 registered voters within the county explaining the changes in precincts and, for a few, a different voting location, Goode noted.
“These letters will be ‘precinct specific,’ so it will explain what has changed at that particular voter’s precinct,” Goode emphasized. “The letter also explains about the changes in early voting this year.”
Early voting runs from April 30 through May 10, Goode said.
During the early voting period only, registered voters can vote in any one of four locations — the Hanover Public Library, Mullens City Hall, Oceana Town Hall or the Wyoming County Courthouse in Pineville — during their regular business hours.
“It doesn’t matter where your home precinct is, you can vote in any one of these locations during the early voting period,” Goode emphasized.
“But, what you can’t do is vote in Hanover, then run to Oceana or Pineville and try to vote again,” he joked.
The electronic voting machines will prevent that, Goode said.
In years past, early voting could only be done at the courthouse location, Goode said.
“Now, you can vote at any of the early locations; it doesn’t matter where you’re registered,” Goode said.
“We really hope to make it more convenient for voters and to increase voter turnout,” he emphasized.
“On election day, voters have to vote in their home precinct,” Goode emphasized. “A choice of voting in Hanover, Mullens, Oceana or Pineville is only there during the early voting period.”
Also, for the first time in a primary election, county voters will not get a choice of a paper ballot or using the electronic voting machine, he said.
The county has moved to all electronic voting, Goode noted, paper ballots have been eliminated.
“We used to pride ourselves on being one of the first counties to finish on election night, then we went to paper and machines for 10 years or so,” he said.
“Paper (ballots) and machines don’t mix very well. Sometimes it was a nightmare to tabulate the totals.”
In the May 13 primary, candidates square off against others within the same party to determine a nominee — Democrats run against Democrats, Republicans against Republicans, and so forth.
Nominees selected by the voters during the May primary then face off in the November general election.
For the commission seat, Jason Mullins, of Mullens, filed to keep his seat. He is challenged by David Cox, also of Mullens, who is a retired county Division of Highways supervisor. Both are Democrats.
Former Prosecutor Rick Staton left office to take a job in Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s administration. Micheal Cochrane was appointed, by the Wyoming County Commission, to fill the position until the election. He is challenged by David Thompson, of Pineville, an assistant prosecutor, and Pamela “Pam” Lambert, of Hanover, a former assistant prosecutor. All three are Democrats.
The three board of education seats — currently held by Mike Davis, Arnold Harless and Tommy Knotts — will be on the separate non-partisan ballot during the May primary. Davis, of Mullens; Harless, of Clear Fork, and Knotts, of Brenton, all filed to keep their seats. Also filing were Perry E. Cook, of Clear Fork; Doug Lester, of Oceana; Betty Jenkins England, of Pineville; and Allan R. Stiltner, of Fanrock. Winners in this election take office July 1.
On the state ticket in Wyoming County, the District 9 state senate seat currently held by Mike Green will be on the ballot. On the Republican ticket, Jeff Mullins, of Shady Spring, is the only candidate.
Additionally, the four House of Delegates districts that cover portions of Wyoming County will also be on the ballot, those include Districts 21, 24, 25 and 31.
In District 21, Harry Keith White, the incumbent, of Gilbert, is the only Democrat on the ballot. Republicans are Mark Dean, of Verner in Mingo County, and Roger Stacy, of Jolo in McDowell County.
In District 24, incumbents Rupert “Rupie” Phillips Jr. and Teddy “Ted” Tomblin, face David Graham on the Democratic ballot. Republicans are Billy Marcum and Gloria Meadows. All the candidates live in Logan.
In District 25, incumbent Linda Goode Phillips, of Pineville, is unchallenged. Sue Cline, of Brenton, is the only Republican.
In District 31, incumbent Lynne Arvon, a Republican, of Beckley, is unchallenged. Clyde D. McKnight Jr., of Rock Creek, is the only Democrat.