May brings spring blooms and election postcards filling our mailboxes. Regardless, this mid-term primary should be noted for its dismal voter turnout of less than 23% of registered voters. This means that candidates could win their primaries with only a tiny fraction of total voter support. Pendleton County had the lowest turnout at 11%, while Gilmer had the highest at 37%. Check your county on the WV Secretary of State’s election results reporting page. Additionally, on election night, several House of Delegate races were too close to call, leaving the final outcome to be determined by county election officials meeting as the board of canvassers. In at least six races, the leading candidate was ahead by 10 votes or less, with the top in three races leading by one vote each.
In the Republican primary, the biggest disappointment was the loss of Congressman David McKinley who was bashed for voting for the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (along with both our US Senators). It seems that Donald Trump’s endorsement of Alex Mooney had voters swayed to support a do-nothing candidate being investigated for ethics violations. Democrats nominated former Morgantown city councilman Barry Lee Wendell to challenge Mooney in November. That’ll be a tough race for the Democratic challenger against an incumbent Republican.
In the Democratic primary, a noteworthy observation was the number of empty slots. In the WV Senate, 6 out of 17 races didn’t have a candidate listed and in the House of Delegates races, 27 of the 100 slots were empty. This is a total reversal from when the Democrats were in the majority and it was the Republicans who had problems convincing folks to step up and run. Democrats have a lot of recruiting to do in the next two years if they’re ever going to even the odds at the statehouse.
One State Senate race of note is in the new 7th District (now gerrymandered to include a sliver of Kanawha in addition to Boone, Lincoln and Logan counties), where former US Attorney Mike Stuart won (by a couple hundred votes) over former union pipefitter Chad McCormick. This sets up a fall challenge with Democratic incumbent Dr. Ron Stollings who’s held the seat for quite a while.
Speaking of gerrymandering, this is our first election under the new districts drawn by our Republican supermajority. I bet the Democrats wish they’d passed a bill setting up an independent redistricting commission when they had the votes. Maybe the Republicans are smart enough to do so before they lose the majority? I doubt it…
How was your voting experience with the new districts? Mine went OK, but things didn’t go so well for others in my new precinct. My voting location was moved from Sissonville High School to Elkview Elementary as a result of now being in a totally different precinct. The poll workers thought at first that I and my two other family members would have to vote provisional ballots since everyone ahead of us coming over from Sissionville were not listed in the poll books. However, our names were there so we were voters number 69, 70 and 71. I asked how many provisional ballots had been voted and they said 16 or 17. That meant that nearly 23% of the folks voting so far at that location had to vote a challenged ballot because of clerical errors at the County Clerk’s office!
If you experienced a problem voting in the primary, we want to hear about it! We’re working with partners and allies to gather information about issues and challenges experienced in West Virginia’s 2022 primary election and to pressure state and local election officials to take action on these issues before the general election. Please fill out our 2022 Primary Election Issues and Action Survey to share your story or contact email@example.com about your voting experience.
There has been a lot of coverage and analysis of this primary, so I’m going to post some additional links:
Now that the fall lineup is complete we need to do better on voter turnout in November. Midterms are always lean, so what that means is that everyone who votes has an oversized effect on the results. Whichever candidate can get out the most voters will prevail. Watch future newsletters for ways you can help with GOTV (Getting Out The Vote).