Student Voting Guide | West Virginia
This student voting guide explains the laws for the state of West Virginia. If you wish to vote from your school address, check the student voting guide for the state where you attend school. If you want to cast an absentee ballot in your home state, check the student voting guide for that state.
The Brennan Center is committed to giving students as much information as possible to help you exercise your constitutional right to vote. More than ever in recent history, changes to voting laws are being implemented in ways that can affect your ability to make your vote count. In addition to the content you will find in this Student Voting Guide, a report that we issued last year documents a number of these changes and we continue to track passed and pending voting law changes here. While we are working to give you up-to-date information, we urge you to be proactive! In order to ensure you have all the information you need before casting your vote, you should also check with your state and local election officials for information about additional requirements or regulations.
This voting guide was last updated in June 2012.
You may check your West Virginia Registration status here.
To vote in West Virginia you must be 18, a U.S. citizen, and a resident of the state.[ i] You may register to vote in West Virginia if you will be 18 by the next general election.[ii] You may vote in a primary election if you are 17 years old for state or county primaries and 18 by the next municipal election.[iii] If you have been convicted of a felony, it may impact your ability to vote.[iv] You should contact your local election official, if you think you are affected.
West Virginia’s registration deadline is 21 days before the election, or the first business day after that if the 21st day falls on a weekend or a holiday.[v] The last day to register for the 2012 general election is October 16, 2012. Registration forms are available online here. You can register by mail, in person at the office of the clerk of the county commissioner, or at the department of motor vehicles or other designated agency.[vi] If you register by mail, your application must be postmarked by the deadline.[vii] First-time voters will need to provide identification—acceptable ID is set out in the identification section below.
To establish residency for voting purposes in West Virginia you must be a United States citizen, a resident of West Virginia, and a resident of the county you wish to vote in.[viii] West Virginia courts have held that your voting residency requires both your physical presence and your intent to remain for the time being.[ix]
At School. Students can establish residency in West Virginia if they have a present intent to remain at their West Virginia school address for the time being, and they intend to make it their principal home.[x] Any other interpretation of the residency laws is unconstitutional. Voting in West Virginia may be a declaration of residency, potentially making you subject to other laws that govern state residents. For example, registering to vote in West Virginia makes you a resident for the purposes of motor vehicle registration. [xi] If you drive a car within the state, you have 30 days to register that vehicle.[xii]
At Home. Students who lived in West Virginia before moving elsewhere to attend school, and who wish to establish or keep their West Virginia voting residency (i.e., at their parents’ West Virginia address), should have no problem doing so unless they have already registered to vote in another state. If you are out of the county because you are attending a college, university, or other place of education or training you may vote in West Virginia by absentee ballot[xiii].
While registering to vote in another state is not automatically considered an abandonment of your West Virginia residency, some judges or officials might view it as such. If you have established residency in another state and are moving back to West Virginia with the intent to reside here, you will have to follow the normal registration procedures to re-register in West Virginia.
Challenges to Residency. When you register to vote, the county clerk may deny your registration if he or she deems you ineligible because you are not a resident.[xiv] The clerk must notify you by mail that your registration has been denied and give you notice of your right to an appeal of that decision.[xv] You may request reconsideration in writing and present information relating to your eligibility.[xvi] The clerk has 14 days to reconsider and issue a written decision about your eligibility.[xvii] You may also make an appeal in writing to the county commission to ask for a hearing.[xviii] You may appeal the county commission’s decision to the circuit court, and that decision to the state’s Supreme Court of Appeals.[xix]
Your eligibility to vote can also be challenged on the basis of residency by county or state officials or by any voter after you are registered.[xx] The challenger must appear in person and give the reasons for their challenge in writing.[xxi] The clerk will then notify you of the challenge and you must then appear within thirty days to defend your eligibility.[xxii] If you do not appear or your notice has been returned as undeliverable, your registration will be canceled.[xxiii] If you do appear, you can present evidence that you’re eligible and the clerk will determine your eligibility.[xxiv] If you are challenged at the polls you will still be able to vote by provisional ballot.[xxv] Your ballot will be counted and tallied together with the regular ballots cast in the election if the county commission finds that, when counting provisional ballots, the challenge was unfounded.[xxvi]
First-time voters in West Virginia must provide verification of their identity. If you are a first-time voter who registered by mail you can verify your identity in one of three ways: (1) by listing your West Virginia driver’s license number or the last four digits of your Social Security number on your mail-in registration form, and having that number verified by the state; (2) by submitting a copy of an identifying document with your registration form; or (3) by showing ID when you vote in person or by mailing a photocopy with an absentee ballot.[xxvii]
Qualifying ID includes current and valid photo identification, a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or other government document that shows the name and address of the voter.[xxviii] Student photo IDs which display the student’s name and current address will be accepted as a qualifying ID.[xxix] Cell phone bills will be accepted as utility bills and student housing bills from a public college or university will also be accepted as government documents.[xxx] Online printouts will likely be accepted.[xxxi]
If you don’t have any qualifying ID for your first time at the polls you may still vote by provisional ballot.[xxxii] Your ballot will be counted if the canvassing board determines that you are eligible to vote.[xxxiii]
Absentee ballots applications are available online. Students who are absent from their county of residence because of attendance at a college or university are eligible to vote absentee in West Virginia.[xxxiv] Your application to vote absentee by mail must be received by the county by the sixth day before Election Day.[xxxv] (You can track your absentee ballot online here.) For your vote to be counted, your actual absentee ballot must be postmarked by Election Day.[xxxvi] First-time voters who are voting absentee and whose identity has not been verified by the state will have to provide a copy of ID (as described above) with their absentee ballot.[xxxvii]
As a convenience, all voters may vote an in-person absentee ballot during the early voting period within their county.[xxxviii] West Virginia has early voting which begins 20 days before the election and ends 3 days before Election Day.[xxxix] You can also vote on the two Saturdays before the election.[xl] Early Voting Hours by County are listed online here. At early voting sites, you can vote any precinct’s ballot for that county.
Last Updated in June 2012
[i] W. Va. Code § 3-1-3 (2012).
[ii] W. Va. Code § 3-2-2(a) (2012).
[iii] W. Va. Code § 3-1-3 (2012).
[iv] W. Va. Code § 3-1-3 (2012).
[v] W. Va. Code § 3-2-6(a) (2012).
[vi] W. Va. Code § 3-2-6 (2012).
[vii] W. Va. Code § 3-2-6(b)(2)(A) (2012).
[viii] W. Va. Code § 3-2-3(a) (2012).
[ix] State v. Stalnaker, 412 S.E.2d 231, 233 (W. Va. 1991).
[x] See Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U.S. 330, 330 (1972); Williams v. Salerno, 792 F.2d 323, 328 (2d Cir. 1986).
[xi] W. Va. Code §17A-3-1a(b)(1) (2012).
[xii] W. Va. Code §17A-3-1a(a) (2012).
[xiii] W. Va. Code § 3-3-1(b)(2)(B) (2012).
[xiv] W. Va. Code § 3-2-17(a) (2012).
[xv] W. Va. Code § 3-2-17(b) (2012).
[xvi] W. Va. Code § 3-2-17(c) (2012).
[xvii] W. Va. Code § 3-2-17(c) (2012).
[xviii] W. Va. Code § 3-2-17(d) (2012).
[xix] W. Va. Code § 3-2-17(e)-(f) (2012).
[xx] W. Va. Code § 3-2-28(a) (2012).
[xxi] W. Va. Code § 3-2-28 (2012).
[xxii] W. Va. Code § 3-2-28(b) (2012).
[xxiii] W. Va. Code § 3-2-28(c) (2012).
[xxiv] W. Va. Code § 3-2-28(b) (2012).
[xxv] W. Va. Code § 3-1-41(b) (2012).
[xxvi] W. Va. Code § 3-1-41(e) (2012).
[xxvii] W. Va. Code § 3-2-10(g)(1) (2012).
[xxviii] W. Va. Code § 3-2-10(g) (2012).
[xxix] Interview with Lisa Block, Elections Assistant, Elections Division, West Virginia Secretary of State (March 13, 2012).
[xxx] Interview with Lisa Block, Elections Assistant, Elections Division, West Virginia Secretary of State (March 13, 2012).
[xxxi] Interview with Lisa Block, Elections Assistant, Elections Division, West Virginia Secretary of State (March 13, 2012).
[xxxii] W. Va. Code § 3-2-10(h) (2012).
[xxxiii] W. Va. Code § 3-1-41(e) (2012).
[xxxiv] W. Va. Code § 3-3-1(b)(2)(B) (2012).
[xxxv] W. Va. Code § 3-3-5(b)(2) (2012).
[xxxvi] W. Va. Code § 3-3-5(g)(2) (2012).
[xxxvii] W. Va. Code § 3-2-10(g) (2012).
[xxxviii] W. Va. Code § 3-3-1(a) (2012).
[xxxix] W. Va. Code § 3-3-3(a) (2012).
[xl] W. Va. Code § 3-3-3(a) (2012).