(05/13/2002)
Calhoun County Clerk Richard Kirby said there's lots of new rules for this years election, but "We're ready to go." Kirby said only 96 people voted "no excuse" absentee ballots during the past two weeks. Absentee voting ended at 1 p.m. Monday.

Kirby said the absentee ballots are sealed until the counting begins Tuesday night. "A special counting board will process those ballots," he said.

The race, which has four-way interest, is for the seat on the Calhoun Commission, which pits three men against Harvard graduate Lynn Gilbert, a Grantsville dentist and member of the Morris political family. The race is predicted to be close between Gilbert, Rick Sampson, Tom Shock and Steve Whited.

Gilbert has announced she will give her $15,000 commission salary away to "worthy community projects." She says in a full-page ad in the families Calhoun Chronicle "I for one am not satisfied with the results of our investment ... I don't condone spending county money on one or two individuals when the needs of the county are so great."

Current members of the commission have declined a recent $1,500 pay raise approved by the legislature, which sets salaries. Commissioners have declined health care benefits for several years to keep costs down.

The three other candidates have responded variously to Gilbert's statement, but none took ads in The Calhoun Chronicle.

Kirby said all the poll workers are in place, and he was giving them a call to remind them of their duties at 4 p.m. yesterday. The Calhoun Commission upped the poll worker allowance to $100, mostly because the interest has declined.

For the first time, teen's sixteen and seventeen could become volunteer poll workers, a movement to interest young people in voting. There were no volunteers in Calhoun.

Calhoun's optical scanning system was officially tested last week by Kirby and the Calhoun Commission. During the counting process Tuesday night, special poll workers from two political parties will oversee the insertion of the ballots and the operation of the machine.

West Virginia now has 29 counties with optical scanners, which matches paper ballots to electronic technology. Many voter rights groups believe paper ballots should still be retained in the voter process. Since critical voter problems surfaced in Florida, several states have taken a critical look at the voting system.

Members of the West Virginia Legislature made critical redistricting changes, mostly to protect incumbents. Kanawha County was about to lose one of their three senators because of population decline. Some of the maneuvering was to allow them to retain all three. This positioning caused boundaries to be re-drawn on dozens of counties.

In Calhoun, redistricting has occurred directly based on population changes, and some voters will have to change voting precincts.

Delegates in 16 of the 58 districts will be now be representing all or parts of counties they have never served, as will be six senators in 17 districts. Calhoun's district now stretches in snake-like fashion from Chloe to Wheeling Island, which appears to disrupt geographic closeness.

"We hope a lot of people exercise their voting rights tomorrow," concluded Kirby.


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