By CHARLES OWENS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Voter turnout is expected to be heavy today across the coalfields of southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia.
Polls open today in West Virginia at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m. In Virginia, polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. Thousands across the region have already voted early.
In Mercer County, 5,914 early ballots were cast, which represents about 15 percent of the county’s registered voters.
“Typically the early voting runs around 10 percent so we are 5 percent ahead of the 2008 general election,” Mercer County Clerk Verlin Moye said. “We had a good early voting turnout — the best I’ve ever seen.”
Moye said poll workers in Mercer County are ready for a heavy influx of voters today at the polls.
“We are just kind of forecasting what could possibly go wrong, and what we do when circumstances arise,” Moye said. “As long as the machines perform as they have been tested to perform, we are going to be OK. Our poll workers have really, really made our election process much better. They really have. I can’t stress it enough.”
Moye said voters are reminded of two polling precinct changes today in Mercer County.
The old Echoes of Calvary precinct, or precinct no. 96, has been moved to the new Salem United Methodist Church on Route 20. Moye said all impacted voters have been notified by mail. Precinct No. 44, which is Oakvale School, also has been moved to the East River Ruritan in Oakvale due to the ongoing construction project at Oakvale School.
In Tazewell County, voters in the Falls Mills, Va., community are being reminded of a change to their polling precinct. The Tazewell County Electoral Board has been granted permission for an emergency relocation of the Falls Mills polling precinct from the old Falls Mills Elementary School to the Falls Mills Christian Church Fellowship Hall at 14836 Mudfork Road in Falls Mills, according to county Registrar Debbie Barrett.
A heavy voter turnout also is expected today in Virginia — a battleground state in the race for president.
Barrett said 1,308 absentee ballots were cast in Tazewell County. She said voting machines have been tested, and are ready to go.
“We should have a heavy turnout,” Barrett said.
In addition to the presidential election, voters will determine a number of contested races across the region today.
Locally, six candidates are vying for three seats in the newly drawn House of Delegates District 27 contest in Mercer and Raleigh counties. The candidates include Democrats Ryan Flanigan, Greg Ball and Bill Morefield, and Republicans John H. Shott, Delegate Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer, and Delegate Joe Ellington, R-Mercer. The new House District 27 includes 43 precincts in Mercer County and a single precinct in Raleigh County.
In the newly redrawn House of Delegates District 26 race, incumbent Democrat Clif Moore, D-McDowell, is running unopposed for re-election.
In the newly redrawn Senate District 6 race for southern West Virginia, incumbent Democrat Mark Wills is being challenged by Republican Bill Cole. The new Senate District 6 includes Mercer and McDowell counties.
Voters also will decide a single seat today on the Mercer County Commission. Republican Gene Buckner and Democrat Terry Hughes are vying for the commission seat currently held by Democrat Jay Mills, who lost the Democratic primary in May to Hughes. Buckner won the Republican primary.
In West Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District, U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., is being challenged by Republican Rick Snuffer of Beckley.
In Virginia’s 9th Congressional District, two candidates are vying for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., is being challenged by Democrat Anthony Flaccavento of Abingdon, Va.
Also in Virginia, two candidates are vying for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by U.S. Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va. Both Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican George Allen are former governors of Virginia. The race could help to determine which political party controls the U.S. Senate. Webb opted not to seek re-election.
Town council and mayoral races also will be decided today across Southwest Virginia, including in the towns of Bluefield, Pocahontas, Tazewell, Richlands and Cedar Bluff.
— Contact Charles Owens at firstname.lastname@example.org