Charleston, W. Va. – West Virginia law prohibits non-citizens from registering to vote and to vote in any state election. Following a change in the law in 2019, for the first time in the state’s history, Secretary of State Mac Warner executed an agreement with the WV Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to confidentially share data of non-citizens with a state identification.
The agreement allows the Secretary of State’s Office to compare data of known, self-identified non-citizens to the statewide voter rolls. The data comparison will assist the Secretary of State’s office with validating that only eligible voters are registered to vote and able to cast a ballot on Election Day.
To protect against inadvertent or intentional ineligible voter registrations, Secretary Warner worked closely with the West Virginia Legislature earlier this year to add a new control measure to keep the voter registration list clean and accurate. In West Virginia, while legal non-citizens may obtain a temporary driver’s license at the DMV, they are not allowed to use the license to register to vote.
The newly enacted law requires the DMV to share information provided by non-citizens during the driver’s license process to the Secretary of State’s Office to check the voter rolls for any potentially ineligible voters. On Thursday, the WV State Election Commission was consulted by the Secretary of State’s Office on an order that will be issued to the state’s county clerks, which prescribes the process clerks must follow to comply with the National Voter Registration Act and West Virginia laws. The purpose of a statewide process is to ensure that any action taken on non-citizen registrations is uniform, and any resulting investigations into potential illegal activity is conducted in a fair, transparent manner so as not to disenfranchise any voters that are eligible to vote. The order will be issued prior to sharing any information with county clerks and local election officials.
This additional process is one of many controls Warner has put into place during his tenure as Secretary of State to verify that information on the voter rolls is true and accurate. The effort announced Thursday is part of a larger overall strategy to give voters a renewed confidence in West Virginia elections. Warner maintains that aggressively investigating allegations of fraud or voter suppression will strengthen election security, confidence, and accessibility for all voters.
“The review of this data is critical to keeping our voter registration rolls accurate and free from ineligible persons,” Warner said. “My office looks forward to working with the DMV and our county clerks to make sure that every registered voter is eligible to vote.”
Once the non-citizen data received by the DMV is compared to the statewide voter rolls, the Secretary of State’s Office will share possible ineligible registrations with the appropriate county clerks. County clerks are responsible under the law to conduct voter roll list maintenance, and this additional list maintenance is just one of many similar processes they conduct on a regular, uniform basis.
The Secretary of State will, when appropriate, investigate any improper registration and voting that may have occurred. Expectations are that evidence of fraud will be low. Nevertheless, Warner says that this effort will reassure the general public that democratic principles of voting are best protected only when eligible voters are registered and allowed to vote on Election Day.