Senate Bill No. 450
(By Senators McCabe, Foster and Plymale)
[Introduced February 7, 2011; referred to the Committee on the Judiciary; and then to the Committee on Finance.]
A BILL to amend and reenact §3-3-2a and §3-3-3 of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, all relating to permitting a county commission to designate additional community voting locations for early in-person voting; permitting the two major political parties to appeal any additional community voting locations only on the basis of neutrality; and decreasing the early in-person voting period from twenty days to thirteen days before an election.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That §3-3-2a and §3-3-3 of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended be amended and reenacted, all to read as follows:
ARTICLE 3. VOTING BY ABSENTEES.
§3-3-2a. Early voting areas; prohibition against display of campaign material.
(a) The county commission shall designate the courthouse or annex to the courthouse as the primary location for early voting and in addition, the commission may designate other locations as provided in subsection (b).
(b) The county commission may, with the approval of the county clerk or other official charged with the administration of elections, and the written agreement of the chairpersons of the county executive committees of the two major political parties, designate additional community voting locations for early voting other than the county courthouse or courthouse annex. The additional community voting locations shall comply with the requirements of this article for early in-person voting and criteria prescribed by the Secretary of State. Notwithstanding any other early in-person voting requirements, the county clerk is authorized to designate rotating community voting locations that may be used for fewer days of early in-person voting permitted by section three of this article. The two major political parties’ county executive committees may appeal a community voting location only on the basis of neutrality. Any appeal must factually and specifically state how the community voting location violates neutrality. The appeal must be submitted to the county commission and county clerk no later than sixty days prior to an election. Community voting locations are valid unless changed or successfully appealed.
(c) The Secretary of State is hereby directed to propose legislative and emergency rules in accordance with the provisions of article three, chapter twenty-nine-a of this code as may be necessary to implement the provisions of this section. The rules shall include establishment of criteria to assure neutrality and security in the selection of additional locations.
(d) Throughout the period of early in-person voting, the official designated to supervise and conduct absentee voting shall make the following provisions for voting:
(1) The official shall provide a sufficient number of voting booths or devices appropriate to the voting system at which voters may prepare their ballots. The booths or devices are to be in an area separate from but within clear view of the public entrance area of the official’s office or other area designated by the county commission for absentee voting and are to be arranged to ensure the voter complete privacy in casting the ballot.
(2) The official shall make the voting area secure from interference with the voter and shall ensure that voted and unvoted ballots are at all times secure from tampering. No person, other than a person lawfully assisting the voter according to the provisions of this chapter, may be permitted to come within five feet of the voting booth while the voter is voting. No person, other than the officials or employees of the official designated to supervise and conduct absentee voting or members of the board of ballot commissioners assigned to conduct absentee voting, may enter the area or room set aside for voting.
(3) The official designated to supervise and conduct absentee voting shall request the county commission designate another area within the county courthouse, any annex of the courthouse or any other designated as early in-person voting locations within the county, as a portion of the official’s office, for the purpose of absentee in-person voting in the following circumstances:
(A) If the voting area is not accessible to voters with physical disabilities;
(B) If the voting area is not within clear view of the public entrance of the office of the official designated to supervise and conduct absentee voting; or
(C) If there is no suitable area for absentee in-person voting within the office.
Any designated area is subject to the same requirements as the regular absentee voting area.
(4) The official designated to supervise and conduct absentee voting shall have at least two representatives to assist with absentee voting: Provided, That the two representatives may not be registered with the same political party affiliation or two persons registered with no political party affiliation. The representatives may be full-time employees, temporary employees hired for the period of absentee voting in person or volunteers.
(5) No person may do any electioneering nor may any person display or distribute in any manner, or authorize the display or distribution of, any literature, posters or material of any kind which tends to influence the voting for or against any candidate or any public question on the property of the county courthouse, any annex facilities, or any other designated early voting locations within the county, during the entire period of regular in-person absentee voting. The official designated to supervise and conduct absentee voting is authorized to remove the material and to direct the sheriff of the county to enforce the prohibition.
§3-3-3. Early voting in person.
(a) The voting period for early in-person voting is to be conducted during regular business hours beginning on the twentieth thirteenth day before the election and continuing through the third day before the election. For any election held on a Tuesday, the early voting period for in-person voting is to be available from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on the two Saturdays prior to the election.
(b) Any person desiring to vote during the period of early in-person voting shall, upon entering the election room, clearly state his or her name and residence to the official or representative designated to supervise and conduct absentee voting. If that person is found to be duly registered as a voter in the precinct of his or her residence, he or she shall be required to sign his or her name in the space marked “signature of voter” on the pollbook. If the voter is unable to sign his or her name due to illiteracy or physical disability, the person assisting the voter and witnessing the mark of the voter shall sign his or her name in the space provided. No ballot may be given to the person until he or she signs his or her name on the pollbook.
(c) When the voter’s signature or mark is properly on the pollbook, two qualified representatives of the official designated to supervise and conduct absentee voting shall sign their names in the places indicated on the back of the official ballot.
(d) If the official designated to supervise and conduct absentee voting determines that the voter is not properly registered in the precinct where he or she resides, the clerk or his or her representative shall challenge the voter's absentee ballot as provided in this article.
(e) The official designated to supervise and conduct absentee voting shall provide each person voting an absentee ballot in person the following items to be printed as prescribed by the Secretary of State:
(1) In counties using paper ballots, one of each type of official absentee ballot the voter is eligible to vote, prepared according to law;
(2) In counties using punch card systems, one of each type of official absentee ballot the voter is eligible to vote, prepared according to law, and a gray secrecy envelope;
(3) In counties using optical scan systems, one of each type of official absentee ballot the voter is eligible to vote, prepared according to law, and a secrecy sleeve; or
(4) For direct recording election systems, access to the voting equipment in the voting booth.
(f) The voter shall enter the voting booth alone and there mark the ballot: Provided, That the voter may have assistance in voting according to the provisions of section four of this article. After the voter has voted the ballot or ballots, the absentee voter shall: Place the ballot or ballots in the gray secrecy envelope and return the ballot or ballots to the official designated to supervise and conduct the absentee voting: Provided, however, That in direct recording election systems, once the voter has cast his or her ballot, the voter shall exit the polling place.
(g) Upon receipt of the voted ballot, representatives of the official designated to supervise and conduct the absentee voting shall:
(1) Remove the ballot stub;
(2) Place punch card ballots and paper ballots into one envelope which shall not have any marks except the precinct number and seal the envelope; and
(3) Place ballots for all voting systems into a ballot box that is secured by two locks with a key to one lock kept by the president of the county commission and a key to the other lock kept by the county clerk.
(4) Due to the reenactment of this section by the Legislature in the 2003 regular session removing authorization for early in-person voting on the Monday prior to a Tuesday election, to assure notice to all persons that voted on the Monday before the Tuesday election day of the 2002 general election are made aware of this change, the clerk of each county shall, for the primary election of the year 2004, include along with the sample ballots published in local newspapers as required by this chapter a notice to voters that Monday in-person voting will no longer be available.
NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to permit a county commission to designate additional community voting locations for early in-person voting. The bill permits the two major political parties to appeal any additional community voting locations only on the basis of neutrality. The bill also decreases the early in-person voting period from twenty days to thirteen days before an election.
Strike-throughs indicate language that would be stricken from the present law, and underscoring indicates new language that would be added.