By Kim MasonWVSOS Director of InvestigationsOffice of West Virginia Secretary of State
Election fraud is unacceptable. Plain and simple. Whether you believe voter fraud is rampant or rare, there is no denying that the possibility exists. So when it occurs, who should investigate allegations of these types of crimes? Municipal police departments, sheriff’s offices, state police? All of the above.
While most law enforcement agencies have the ability to investigate election crimes, the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office has a specialized unit for matters such as this. The Investigations Division is specifically trained to conduct preliminary investigations into allegations of election fraud, voter fraud, or campaign fraud. The WVSOS not only has the authority, but a duty to investigate, and if there is sufficient evidence, the responsibility to submit to prosecution the person allegedly responsible for any election crimes.
The structure of the unit, an office-based director and several contract investigators located throughout the state, allows for investigators to respond swiftly to each and every complaint that contains a credible claim of an election law violation. Real-time responses can have a significant impact on reducing the potential for further fraud. The unit strives to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our investigations and secure successful prosecution.
The Investigations Division values an integrity-based proactive approach to investigating allegations of election fraud, which has three components for success: engaging and educating the public, quick response times to concerns, and prosecution when warranted. The office works closely with local law enforcement agencies, district attorneys, and county clerks in all 55 counties to deter and uncover acts of fraud. Over the last three years, the unit has investigated more than 500 allegations of fraud or misconduct surrounding West Virginia elections, leading to dozens of criminal referrals, arrests, convictions, and diversion programs.
The June 9th Primary will be an unprecedented election for the State of West Virginia. The encouraged use of absentee ballots for those most susceptible to the novel coronavirus creates an additional risk for fraud. While we must always ensure free and fair access to the ballot, we must also protect the integrity of the election. We want the public to be confident in casting their vote, whether in person or by absentee, and trust that our office is taking a proactive approach to preventing and investigating any type of election fraud.
The prevention of election fraud starts with education. That’s why the Secretary of State's Office is doing so much to educate the public on what is and what is not acceptable. The general public's support in helping deter or detect fraud is vitally important. If you see something, please say something. Call us at (877) FRAUD-WV or file a complaint with our Investigations Unit. We stand ready to investigate your allegations and uphold the integrity of the election.
More information on the June 9th Primary Election can be found at GoVoteWV.com.
Kim Mason is a native of Putnam County. She is a graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College.