CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Tens of thousands of West Virginians voted early for Saturday's special primary election for the U.S. Senate, but officials still predict a low turnout overall.
Secretary of State Natalie Tennant expects about 20 percent to 25 percent of West Virginians to cast ballots in the primary race for the seat once held by the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va. That projection takes into account the more than 30,500 people who voted early during five days between Aug. 20 and Wednesday.
Polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Fourteen people are seeking the seat, and the winners of the race will face off in November. Byrd died June 28 as the longest-serving member of Congress in U.S. history.
Tennant said she was encouraged by the heavy participation in early voting, but that it doesn't necessarily signal high turnout for Saturday.
"I hate that I have to predict that," Tennant said Friday, "but that's kind of what the trend shows."
In this year's May primary, held on a Tuesday, 23 percent of voters turned out.
Elections usually occur on Tuesdays, but legislators believed a Saturday race would cost less than a weekday contest. Election Day is a state holiday, so schools must close and state workers get the day off.
The last statewide Saturday election was a 2005 special election on pension bonds, Tennant said.
Only 14 percent of voters participated.
Kanawha County has held Saturday elections before, for school board contests and levy decisions, County Clerk Vera McCormick said.