Senate Bill No. 391
(By Senators Palumbo, Snyder, Foster, McCabe, Beach, Minard and Wells)
[Originating in the Committee on the Judiciary;
reported February 23, 2011.]
A BILL to amend and reenact §3-3-2a of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, relating to authorizing community voting locations; removing the requirement that chairpersons of executive committees approve community voting locations; requiring community voting locations to be open a minimum of five days; requiring community voting locations to be politically balanced or counter balanced by another location; requiring security of election equipment and materials; requiring the publication of community voting locations; and providing for appeal of community voting locations to circuit court.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That §3-3-2a of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be amended and reenacted 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 choose to utilize 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. The county commission and county clerk shall, by order, set the community voting locations with the written approval of the chairpersons of the county executive committees of the two major political parties.
(c) If the approval of the chairpersons of the county executive committees of the two major political parties is not obtained pursuant to subsection (b) of this section, the county commission and county clerk shall, by order, place community voting locations in precincts, which have, as nearly as practicable, political party affiliation ratios of registered voters equal to the political party affiliation ratio of registered voters in the entire county. If a community voting location is placed in a precinct with a political party affiliation ratio that is not equal, as nearly as practicable, to the political party affiliation ratio of the county, then it shall be counter-balanced with another location or locations placed in another precinct or precincts. Multiple community voting locations in a county, when considered together shall, as nearly as practicable, have political party affiliation ratios of registered voters equal to the political party affiliation ratio of registered voters in the entire county.
(d) No order designating community voting locations may be made by the county commission without giving notice at least one month before the designation by publication of the notice as a Class II-0 legal advertisement in compliance with provisions of article three, chapter fifty-nine of this code. The publication area is the county in which the community voting locations are designated. The county commission shall also, within fifteen days after the date of the order, publish the order in the manner required for publication of the notice.
(e) Any person claiming to be aggrieved by an order of a county commission designating a community voting location, may appeal on the grounds that the community voting location is not politically balanced as required by this section. An appeal to the circuit court in the county where the order was entered may be filed up to fifteen days after the entry of the order of the county commission. All such cases shall be heard and determined as expeditiously as possible and shall be given priority over all other cases. Community voting locations are valid until changed by order of the commission pursuant to the requirements of this section, or if such order is overturned on appeal.
(f) Community voting locations may be utilized for less than the full period of early in-person voting but shall remain open for a minimum of five consecutive voting days. If more than one community voting location is utilized in a county, each community voting location in that county shall remain open for the same number of days and same number of hours per day. All measures required by this chapter to assure the security of the election equipment, ballots and other election materials shall be followed.
(c) (g) 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 community voting locations.
(d) (h) 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.