MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – House Bill 2592 would align municipal and state elections and passed the House by a vote of 75 – 25. On Thursday, the bill was sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The bill is sponsored by Sponsored by Taylor County Delegate Amy Summers and amended by Mon County Delegate Joe Statler and Marion County Delegate Guy Ward. Statler’s amendment makes provisions for levies in Clay and Monongalia counties that are out of sync with the bill. Groups like boards of education could hold special elections prior to January 1, 2022 for the purpose of synchronizing the renewal of an existing or expiring levy with a future primary or general election. The amendment from Ward states, ” that in the case of municipal elections, when current terms end for elected officials, the municipality, for those seats up for reelection, must choose either the next primary or general election but cannot extend offices for more than twelve months or reduce offices less than twelve months.”
Kyle McAvoy, president of West Virginians for Common Sense, believes the change would cut costs and increase participation.
“It would both save taxpayer money, but it doesn’t reduce our services,” McAvoy said,” It would actually make it easier for people to participate in the democratic process.”
Aligning elections will also provide candidates with a larger platform to communicate with constituents and could get more interested in public service.
” To do this will greatly increase the likelihood of voting in elections and saves about $30,000 in Morgantown every election cycle,” McAvoy said,” And statewide it would save money across the board.”
Historically, voter turnout for city elections in Morgantown fluctuates between 10 and 15 percent. Even during the 2017 elections, when all seven seats on city council were contested, only 2,707 of the city’s 18,076 registered voters came out to the polls.
“How much more lost in the shuffle can you be?” McAvoy asked,” I mean, you’re only getting a 10 percent turnout in these elections. You’re not getting a true representation of the town.”
Training and maintaining poll workers has been a continuing challenge for county and municipal courts especially in an aging state attempting to rebuild the population.
“You’re still going to have the same elections it’s just synching them up to enable us to have them at the same time to save money,” McAvoy said,” And it’s difficult to get poll workers, so it reduces the burden on the county clerk’s office.”
Four of five Mon County Delegates, Williams, Evans, Walker and Fleischauer voted against the bill.
“In the House this went through 75-25, that’s a pretty strong passage,” McAvoy said,” It had bipartisan support.”