By Mac WarnerWest Virginia Secretary of State
By Mac WarnerWVSOS West Virginia Secretary of State
Upon completion of 28 years of American military and state department service, I was blessed when our citizens elected me Secretary of State, West Virginia's chief election official. One thing destitute people around the globe had in common was a lack of popularly elected government and a functioning constitution which guaranteed personal freedom and an iron-clad protected right to participate in their own governance.
I came to public office absolutely committed to ensure West Virginians would have elections that accurately ascertain their consent when choosing their government officials.
In our 2020 Primary and General Elections, the Mountain State accomplished the daunting mission of holding secure and fair elections despite numerous hurdles and distractions. Researchers from MIT concluded West Virginia's 2020 elections were among the top ten across the country in voters’ confidence.
How did we do it? Fifty-five county clerks and the precinct workers they trained were fully enabled to do what only local officials are able to do; ensure the integrity of the vote amongst the people they know. Washington, DC can never nationalize a process that will accurately do what local voting officials in West Virginia can do. Officials govern best when they are close to and directly responsive to the people. Our county clerks are the heroes of our election success.
From day one (January 17, 2017) the goal of my administration and your county clerks has been to make our state the best in the country in terms of election integrity and instilling public confidence in the election results.
The first step we took was to clean up our voter registration lists. Out-of-date and inaccurate registration rolls provide a ripe argument for those who want to cast doubt on election outcomes as well as enable those who may choose to cheat the system.
In just four years your county clerks identified that more than 25% of the statewide voter registration list was outdated with ineligible voters. As of July 1, 2021 more than 364,000 outdated, duplicate, deceased, out of state, and convicted felon voter files have been removed from the Statewide Voter Registration Database.
An accurate voter registration list coupled with our 2018 implementation of a voter ID requirement makes for strengthened election integrity. West Virginia’s first voter ID mandate at the polls began prior to the 2020 elections without any reported problems or concerns. West Virginia poll workers and voters find compliance with the common-sense policy of personal identification at the polling place to be easy and to greatly enhance confidence in election results. As confidence in the election process has swelled, we are enjoying record turnouts at the polls. People know that every voter is eligible and that every vote properly cast will be properly counted.
To ensure vote tallies are accurate, county clerks perform a post-election audit of the paper ballot records to the electronic tallies of ballots. To increase effectiveness and confidence, our office issued a directive in the 2020 General Election for clerks to provide validation of these audits to our office prior to certification of their election results. Promptly sharing this verification ensured total transparency in the process to our legislature and to the public.
Our county clerk’s commitment to voter list maintenance, voter ID, and transparent post-election audits continues to increase voters’ trust in West Virginia’s elections. Encouraging trust and inclusion into the voting franchise for our military and voters with disabilities has elevated our election system as a model for the other states.
Recently, the federal Elections Assistance Commission presented a “Best Practices in Elections” award to West Virginia county clerks for their efforts to lead the nation in the enfranchisement of our military and voters with disabilities. Our statewide ability to use technology to safely and securely return an absentee ballot allows both of these segments of voter’s participation in the election process in ways that were not feasible or achievable prior to 2020.
We will fight hard against any attempted takeover of elections by the national government that eliminates the capacity to cast a ballot for voters with disabilities and our military while diminishing voter confidence in our elections. The current efforts in Washington to pass HR1 and S1 amount to a wholesale assault on our local governments and a threat to our US Constitution which enshrines vibrant federalism.
Since I took office in 2017, West Virginia election officials have registered an incredible 255,888 new voters in WV. That number includes nearly 67,000 high school students.
That is a tremendous number for a state as small as West Virginia, and our clerks should be proud of this achievement! We have restored confidence in WV elections, and voters are responding in record numbers.
This is what we want: accessible and secure elections, with people eager to participate. West Virginia is on top of the election world, just as election integrity is paramount. Great job West Virginia, congratulations to our wonderful clerks, and let’s keep up the enthusiasm in 2022!
Mac Warner is currently serving his second term as West Virginia Secretary of State.