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KEYSER, W.Va. — Less than two weeks from Election Day, Mineral County Clerk Lauren Ellifritz says she is still short some poll workers needed to open all the county’s voting precincts.

Currently, there are not enough poll workers to man every precinct per state requirements, she said, though there are classes that will be held between now and then to train any new volunteers. Some precincts will have “as few as three (poll workers), so voters are going to have to be patient” on Election Day, she said.

It’s been a struggle to find enough volunteers, Ellifritz said. She needs 130 workers in order to place five people at each of the 26 precincts, she said, and is “a good 20-30 short right now.” She said she is unsure if she can open every precinct, but that remains the goal.

The location of Precinct 5, Short Gap’s fire hall, has moved as well, Ellifritz said, and will instead be at Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church on Wesley Chapel Drive.

There are some training classes remaining between now and the election; interested registrants can call her office at 304-788-3924 to sign up and receive more information.

Early voting begins in West Virginia on Wednesday and closes at 5 p.m. on Oct. 31. In Mineral County, early voting ballots can be cast at the county courthouse from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.

So far, 1,237 absentee ballots have been mailed, Ellifritz said, and 730 had been returned as of Monday evening. The last day to request an absentee ballot is Oct. 28, she said.

Ellifritz said the county has seen on average “close to 2,000” early voters in previous presidential elections, and expects a similarly large turnout this year. Additionally, they “could have another 9,000 on Election Day. I’m expecting a very large turnout,” she said.

Ellifritz also reiterated that campaign materials of any sort aren’t permitted inside precincts or within 100 feet of them. While voters who choose to go in person this year will have to wear a mask, she said, masks in support of any candidate are forbidden, along with T-shirts, signs and anything comparable.

Baniak runs as write-in

Baniak files as write-in candidate for sheriff

H. Jon Baniak has filed as a write-in candidate for sheriff, running against Forrest “Buddy” Ellifritz, who won the June primary election with nearly 1,500 votes in a field of four candidates.

Baniak, a 27-year law enforcement veteran, currently serves as a lieutenant in the Hardy County Sheriff’s Office.

Though he received the lowest amount of votes in the primary, Baniak told the Times-News he decided to put his name back in the ring for reasons ranging from low voter turnout to the fact that every candidate for the office ran under the Republican ticket, limiting the say of the county’s Democratic voters.

“I just felt that the citizens of Mineral County deserved, at least, a choice on who they want their next sheriff to be,” Baniak said, explaining that he waited until “near the last minute” of the Sept. 15 deadline to file as a write-in candidate to see whether either former candidate Rod Ryan or Keith Anderson would do so, as a show of respect for the fact that both men finished higher in the polls.

As a write-in candidate, Baniak’s name won’t formally appear on the ballot.

Local, state and Congressional races

The race for sheriff is the only contested local office in Mineral County. Commissioner President Roger Leatherman, Prosecuting Attorney F. Cody Pancake and Assessor Jill Cosner are all seeking reelection unopposed as Republicans. Gary Howell (R-Mineral), who represents the 56th District in the state House of Delegates, is also running unopposed.

For governor, incumbent Gov. Jim Justice (R) is being challenged by Kanawha County Commissioner and attorney Ben Salango, a Democrat, along with Libertarian and Mountain party candidates Erika Kolenich and Daniel P. “Danny” Lutz Jr., respectively.

Incumbent Secretary of State Mac Warner, a Republican, will face Democrat Natalie Tennant. Democrat Mary Ann Roebuck Claytor and incumbent Republican John “JB” McCuskey are the candidates for state auditor.

Incumbent Democrat State Treasurer John D. Perdue faces a challenge for the office in Republican Riley Moore of Harpers Ferry. Democratic State Sen. Bob Beach is challenging incumbent Republican Kent Leonhardt for the office of Commissioner of Agriculture, and Democrat Sam Brown Petsonk is challenging incumbent Republican Patrick Morrissey for Attorney General.

For the Congressional races, Rep. David McKinley, an incumbent Republican, is being challenged for the seat by Democratic candidate Natalie Cline, and incumbent Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito will face Democrat Paula Jean Swearengin and Libertarian David Moran.

Follow staff writer Lindsay Renner-Wood on Twitter @LindsayRenWood.

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