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There is clearly confusion amongst the masses, as more people pull down their virus prevention masks to speak of the upcoming election on all three fronts — local, state and federal.

The bafflement comes as a result of the current coronavirus situation that has forced the postponement of elections all across the country, including West Virginia, which has moved its primary election day to June 9. In the meantime, absentee voting has become a huge issue across the nation, with Democrats wanting nationwide absentee voting and Republicans opposing that proposal with the defense that it will create election fraud and other irregularities.

As of last Thursday, Logan County Clerk John Turner’s office had mailed out over 1,700 ballots to people requesting them, with more requests coming daily. For those who do not understand what’s going on, allow me to try and simplify what’s taking place, at least in Logan County.

The State Secretary of State’s Office has mailed applications to every registered voter in West Virginia in which voters can fill out the application, mail it or take it to the county clerk’s office, requesting that an absentee ballot be sent to the individual voter. After receiving the ballot, the voter can then make their voting selections on the paper ballot and return it to the clerk’s office by mail or in person.

As of last week, there were 25,422 registered voters in Logan County, and each voter should have by now received an application. However, because many people have failed to update their voter address information — perhaps because of changing their residence — those people will not have received an absentee application. I suggest that if you have not received an application and you want to vote an absentee ballot, then potential voters should telephone the clerk’s office at 304-792-8620 and request the ballot.

Requesting an absentee ballot does not mean that you cannot go to the polls or early vote, as long as you do not submit the absentee ballot. The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot is June 3. For those who want to vote early without going to their regular polling place, you can do so between May 27 and June 6 at the County Commission office, which is located across from the courthouse and beside of what used to be Peebles, now Godman’s store on Stratton Street. Early voting will NOT be done at the courthouse in the primary election.

Now, let me clarify something. Absentee voting has been around for many decades in one form or another. Usually, an individual would vote an absentee ballot because the person was going to be out of town on Election Day, going to be hospitalized or was just unable to physically make it to the polls to vote. A letter from a doctor was sufficient for the clerk’s office to grant the absentee ballot for that particular reason.

I can tell you for a fact that there likely was voter fraud conducted during this process in Logan County, as well as nearly everywhere else, at least in southern West Virginia. In fact, there were some people who were even prosecuted for what was described as “stealing votes.”

Having said this, I can also tell you that I now feel 100% certain that it is safe to vote by absentee ballot, if you so desire. The bottom line is that things are done differently than they have been in past years, especially decades prior to County Clerk John Turner taking office.

It used to be that when a person sent in an absentee ballot to the clerk’s office, it — along with all other absentee ballots — would be forwarded to the voters’ respective precinct where Election Day workers inside the polling places would open the ballots and place the selections onto the voting machines, as indicated on the voter’s ballot.

The way it was supposed to work was that both Republican and Democratic poll workers were to witness each other as the ballots were read by a poll worker. Another worker would pull the levers of the candidates selected by the voter at every position on the ballot — be it for U.S. president, county commissioner, circuit judge, magistrate, etc. Unfortunately, that isn’t how it always worked, at least not in every precinct.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not accusing everybody that ever worked inside a polling place as being part of an illegal process — after all, I have worked inside several polling places myself — and I know there are trustworthy people that earn their pay for that particular day’s work.

The truth, however, is that the most important component of an Election Day, in our county’s past, was the people who worked inside the polling places. That is why each party’s county executive committee members were so important, as well as the county’s chairman of the Republican or Democrat party. Basically, the only real job of an executive committee member, still today, is to select who they want to work in their respective polling places. Getting roads and alleys paved, bridges repaired, etc., has never been a part of a committee person’s job.

Today, I bet there are few readers right now who even know who represents them as a committee person in their respective districts. That is simply because they are not nearly as important anymore due to “vote stealing” having been eliminated by electronic voting devices.

When the old lever voting machines were used and a curtain was pulled to allow a voter privacy, there were many voters who needed “help” in the process, and the poll workers would close the curtain and assist them, some of the voters allowing poll workers to select the candidates they chose and the voter later being paid by outside ground workers. Some voters also could either not see well enough to vote or simply could not read. They, too, were often victims, although they generally trusted the poll worker who helped them.

All of this illegal activity was achieved by the cooperation of the Republican and Democratic poll workers, all of whom were supposed to be watchdogs upon the other. The truth is that in Logan County, it was rare to even have Republican candidates on the primary election ballot. Republican workers, who were paid well to do so, either assisted or turned their heads when the Democrat workers did their dastardly deeds during primary elections.

The chairman of his respective party was in the past the most important figure in the political realm, as that person yielded the power to control who worked in the polling places. A fight for the chairmanship of each party was generally a year-to-year common thing, with committee members voting on the chairmanship. State Road jobs in particular, as well as many other state and local positions, even to the point of a school janitor’s job, was determined by who was chairman and who was on the committee.

When high-priority candidates such as John Kennedy, Jay Rockefeller, Sen. Robert C. Byrd and others came to town, it was the chairman of the local party that they first desired to see. After all, the chairman back then was the person who would be handling most of the money needed in a county election. The chairman also would often take money from opposing candidates. He, and it was always a “he,” was the important cog in the political wheel.

Since County Courts (now County Commissions) also selected poll workers, if the court and the county chairman were politically aligned and worked together, desired election outcomes were almost always assured. However, since there were in every primary election at least two sides, political battles were truly ferocious, even sometimes deadly. I can recall on one Election Day at a Big Creek precinct when one political worker shot and killed his own brother over political slate differences.

This year, in what I believe is the first time in the history of Logan County, the Democrat party has the least amount of candidates ever to file for political offices. For instance, there is no opposition for P.D. Clemens in his bid for sheriff as a Democrat, while David Wandling, also a Democrat, is unopposed for prosecutor, as is Democrat Glen Adkins, Logan County assessor. In the meantime, no Republicans have filed to run for either assessor or county clerk. However, there are five Republican candidates for sheriff.

With candidates unable to do any real door-to-door campaigning or to try and rally their forces by means of pig roasts and other gatherings, it is difficult to project just how the primary election may go. Toss in the fact that I predict the most absentee voting ever will be done this year, it could be the November general election before any real political fireworks occur in southern West Virginia.

By then, of course, the “Trump Train” will be rolling. And I predict nearly all the local Democrats and certainly all of the Republican candidates will be standing in line to purchase tickets for that exhilarating, yet treacherous ride.

Stay safe.

Dwight Williamson serves as magistrate in Logan County. He writes a weekly column for HD Media.