Charleston, West Virginia: Charleston, W.Va. – On Wednesday of this week, WV Secretary of State Mac Warner joined Governor Jim Justice in his ceremonial signing of Senate Bill 94, which expands ballot access to West Virginia voters living with physical disabilities who are unable to vote at the polls. The new law allows voters with physical disabilities, who cannot travel to the polls and mark a paper ballot without assistance, to receive and mark an absentee ballot electronically through secure means approved by the Secretary of State.
“I am proud to be part of this groundbreaking legislation, championed by all of West Virginia’s legislators and the Governor’s office who put full bipartisan support into this important law,” Warner said. “This is another step forward by our state to protect the right to vote for all voters.”
Previously, some voters in West Virginia could not access or vote a ballot privately due to situations beyond their control. The hardest impacted are deployed military members and absentee voters, who are physically unable to get to the polls, and who cannot mark an absentee ballot without assistance.
Under the new law, voters who are physically unable to vote in person, and who also cannot mark a paper ballot without assistance, may apply for an electronic absentee ballot, which can be marked using an electronic ballot marking device. Electronic ballot marking and transmission has been available for military and overseas citizens for years, so the new law simply expands those options to certain voters living with physical disabilities beginning in the 2020 Primary Election.
“We often hear that every vote counts, and that’s very true," Warner said. "In West Virginia, every voter counts, too."
The Secretary of State’s Office will work closely with disability rights organizations to roll out the program and educate the public. The electronic ballot delivery program will be administered by each county clerk. Even though this new option will be available in the 2020 Primary, it is merely an option. Voters covered under the new law who prefer to vote via paper absentee ballot may still choose to vote using the traditional method.
By carefully and responsibly harnessing advanced technology, government can tear down barriers to better serve the citizens of the state. Of course, the security of the technology is a key concern, which must be considered with the right to vote and equal access to the ballot. To ensure that the state protects the integrity of our elections and the right to vote, the Secretary of State’s Office has engaged the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and various other government and independent researchers to assess the security of the technology considered for use in the 2020 Primary.
“My office is actively studying to identify the most secure option with the most reward,” Warner said. “As recently as this week, my office took part in a high-level security discussion with the federal government and independent researchers regarding the technology. We will continue these discussions, thoroughly review new security audits conducted by the federal government and independent researchers, and make decisions based on the best available information to keep the integrity of our elections in tack.”
To provide the utmost transparency and instill confidence in our voters for this important project, the technology considered for use in West Virginia has been and continues to be extensively tested by several federal and private laboratories. Early next week, a declassified report by DHS’ Cyber Hunt and Incident Response Teams will be released to the public by the vendor. A separate in-depth security assessment is currently being finalized by the Idaho National Laboratory, and their findings are expected to be publicly released in the upcoming weeks. And just today, the technology vendor began yet another cybersecurity assessment by premier research and development laboratory MITRE Corporation, whose report will also be released to the public.