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Less than 8% of city voters cast ballots in municipal election

MORGANTOWN — Where do I vote?

Morgantown City Clerk Christine Wade said that’s the question her office answers the most on Election Day and something she’s looking to address in the future in an effort to boost voter turnout.

Tuesday’s municipal election saw 1,517 ballots cast, for a turnout of 7.88%. That’s the lowest percentage turnout since 2007, when a total of 225 people voted in an election with no contested races (1.62%).

In 2019, 1,642 (8.94%) got to the polls. In 2017, a year in which all seven seats were contested, that number was 2,724, or 15.07%.

“We put a survey out and we had a really good response from the voters. I think we’re going to put that up on the website ( for a week or so for folks who didn’t get the opportunity to respond,” Wade said. “If there’s any way we can improve the process I want to know.”

The city’s website includes ward locations as well as an interactive map that tells city residents their ward and polling location based on address. 

She said people who don’t pay attention to area media call her office.

“So what do you do? I’ve never done mailers before to actually send something out to the residents, and of course that costs a lot of money. I don’t know really how else to reach them,” she said.

On multiple occasions, councils have taken up the idea of moving the city election in line with the county — during primary or general elections — in order to boost turnout. The fear has always been city issues will get lost in the shuffle. 

“My opinion on going with the county; it probably would save us some money, but that’s not up to me. I don’t want to take anything away from our council. It’s their election and it’s been their election for many, many years,” Wade said.

Tuesday’s election was different from years past for a couple of reasons.

Traditionally, candidates have gathered with family, friends and the press at city hall, where totals are posted precinct-by-precinct as they report in.

While continued concerns over COVID-19 made the gathering more difficult, it was feedback from the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office indicating state code prohibits displaying numbers precinct-by-precinct that solidified the change in format.   

Instead, Wade went on Channel 15 to broadcast the results at just after 10:30 — about three hours after the polls closed.

She said much of that delay came down to the 1,667 write-in votes that were cast.

“So we were double-checking those and making sure we all had the same numbers. We just wanted to make sure it was right when we put the results out,” she said.

Overall, Wade said Election Day went smoothly thanks to the efforts of a lot of people.

“I have to thank all the volunteers and the poll workers. Really every department in the city helped with this election,” she said. “We could not have done it without everyone.”

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