BETHANY - Bethany residents who can't make it to the polls during the town's June 14 election will be able to mail in their votes, thanks to a pilot program initiated by the Secretary of State's office.
Bethany Recorder Cynthia Hoffman told Bethany Council Wednesday the town will be one of six Class IV municipalities - towns and villages with less than 2,000 residents - to try the approach, which is seen as a cost-saving measure but also may be more convenient for voters.
Hoffman said mail-in ballots will be sent to those who request them after May 25 and must be received with a postmark dated no later than June 11.
"This early voting was brought up because of the expense (for elections) to the smaller municipalities," said Hoffman.
She said every two years $1,000 is budgeted for a general election to determine Bethany's mayor, recorder and five at-large council positions. The town doesn't hold a primary election.
Hoffman said by offering the early voting by mail, the town won't have to open Bethany Town Hall for in-person early voting on the last two Saturdays before the election, resulting in a savings of at least $300.
She said turnout from early voters on those two days usually is light, with about five or six voters visiting town hall during the eight hours it's open.
Hoffman said early voter turnout for the 2009 election, which had a contested mayor's race and several running for council seats, was a little higher than usual.
Asked if she expected many residents to cast mail-in ballots, Hoffman said, "Once they find out about it, I think they will."
She said it's not unusual for residents to be on vacation during the general election's June date.
Hoffman said after attending a March seminar held by the Secretary of State's office's election division, she will begin efforts to inform the public about the process.
Hoffman said she didn't have all of the details, but she did know provisions have been prescribed to deter voter fraud.
According to Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, mail-in voters will be instructed to place their ballots in two envelopes and sign their names across the seal of the second.
Hoffman said the signature will be compared to that given by voters when they register at the Brooke County Courthouse.
The procedure has been used for those who cast absentee ballots, which also are submitted by mail but reserved for those who are ill, disabled or unable to vote in person because they will be temporarily away from their home county for various reasons.
As with in-person early voting, residents won't be required to give a reason for not casting their ballots on Election Day.
Once received, the early voting ballots, like absentee ballots, will be stored in a safe at Bethany Town Hall and counted on the night of the election with those cast in person.
Bethany is one of seven municipalities participating in the pilot program. Harrisville, Paw Paw, Ridgeley, Thurmond and West Hamlin also will be offering mail-in early voting, while Morgantown will be conducting its entire general election by mail.
Morgantown election officials will be mailing ballots to all registered voters there, said Tennant.
Hoffman noted the filing period for those interested in running for Bethany mayor, council member or recorder will continue up to March 15. Those interested in running should call her at (304) 829-4539.
There are no filing fees for the offices, which each entail two-year terms.
Hoffman said the deadline for candidate filing was moved from April 15 to allow time for the early voting ballots to be prepared.
She said ballot positions for candidates in the election will be drawn at council's April 6 meeting at 6 p.m. at Bethany Town Hall.
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