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Autovote law has merits but may pose problems

The new curbside voter law will be tested in West Virginia in May and we hope it works. But we're concerned that there may be some problems with it.

The Autovote law allows anyone who is disabled to pull up to a polling place in his car and the ballot will be brought out to him to fill out. This will require that two poll workers -- one Republican, one Democrat -- be present at curbside while the voter casts his ballot.

Harrison County Clerk Sylvia Basile says that in order for that to be done, the polling place will have to be closed until the handicapped voter has cast his ballot. State law, says Basile, mandates that all five poll workers be present in the polling place at all times.

Upshur County Clerk Debbie Thacker Wilfong says the Autovote law may prove to be "inconvenient."

"Most of our precincts are so large and have so many people, they are really busy," said Wilfong. "Presidential elections usually have a much larger turnout."

The law has the potential to slow down the process, and, in turn, to frustrate other voters.

So what to do?

Certainly a disabled person has just as much right to vote as anyone else. But many find it difficult to navigate in some polling places, especially those that are not handicapped accessible. One solution might be to make all polling places easily accessible to voters in wheelchairs. This way they would not have to vote from the curb and hold up the line in the polling place.

Another solution might be for the Legislature to appropriate funds to counties so that more poll workers can be hired and there will always be the required number in the polling place even if a handicapped voter is outside.

The Autovote law has merit. Anytime we can make it easier for disabled people to vote, we're on the right track. It is worth doing it to see how it works out. Then, county clerks should get together to assess how the voting went and come up with some suggestions that the Legislature might take up next year.

Today's editorial reflects the opinion of the Exponent editorial board, which is comprised of James G. Logue, Kevin S. Courtney, Patrick M. Martin, Matt Harvey and J. Cecil Jarvis.

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