Charleston, W.Va – West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner is a firm believer in states’ rights, the 10th Amendment, and in the responsibility of states to administer elections – and audits. With constant communication with 55 county clerks, Warner opposes federalization of election administration and he opposes attempts to limit states’ ability to audit election results.
West Virginia voter confidence is now running high due to our legislature’s proper balance between access and security. It has never been easier in WV to register to vote, to access the ballot box, or to observe the process all the way through election auditing.
Strong WV laws dictate transparent and redundant election processes, the laws require audits, and the laws require voter ability to test equipment and hand count paper ballots. More than 802,000 registered voters cast a ballot in the November 2020 General Election, the second-highest in the state's history. And, this was done during a pandemic.
Following the 2020 election, MIT ranked West Virginia in the top ten states in voter confidence.
During the recent National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) conference in Des Moines, Iowa, WV Secretary of State Mac Warner stood firmly for the right of the states to regulate and administer their own elections. He strongly advocated that it was the responsibility of the states, not the federal government or any organization, to ensure appropriate laws are in place to increase election integrity. He noted that each state has its own specific laws, equipment and needs.
Secretary Warner was the only "NO" vote on a NASS attempt to determine how post-election audits should be conducted. Warner was troubled that NASS decided to handle this political “hot-potato” just as various state legislatures had either started independent election audits, or had begun debating the idea.
In the end, the NASS effort amounted to suggestions for conducting audits, suggestions Warner agrees worthy of consideration. However, Warner noted no two elections are held the same and each secretary of state should work with their individual legislature to frame election administration. Such efforts should be left to the states, and not challenged by outsiders, the federal government, or organizations such as NASS.
"West Virginia has one of the most secure election processes in the nation," Warner said. "A very important part of our process includes secure and thorough post-election audits that our legislature approved and that trained local county clerks administer."
West Virginia law requires each county to conduct a hand-count audit during the county's canvass. Each county is required to conduct a random hand-count on 3% of all precincts in the county. If any of those audits surpass 1% inaccuracy, or the outcome of any race changes, then every precinct in that county will be recounted by hand. Over the last four years, not one of the state's 55 counties experienced 1% or higher inaccuracy or a race change requiring a full-county recount.
Warner said NASS attempted to define auditing "best practices" to which all states should adhere, but that it remains the responsibility of state legislatures to determine what "practices are best” for their state.
"I do not believe that the federal government, a national organization of state election officials, or any other organization should dictate what practices are best for all states to implement," Warner said. “I will offer the NASS suggestions to West Virginia legislators, but our post-election auditing procedures have worked to ensure accuracy for many years.”
Warner noted state differences.
“Some states are vote-by-mail, and some states do not offer early voting. Some states require an excuse for absentee voting, while others allow no-excuse absentee voting. New Hampshire does not offer early voting and has a very restricted absentee process,” Warner said. “Audits for each of those different voting styles should adjust to the specifics of the voting method and the equipment used.”
Rather than trying to standardize the way election audits are conducted Warner suggested national organizations should be examining deviations from state laws.
“How the votes got into the system is the issue at hand,” claimed Warner. “It's not about a recount or audit of ballots that arrived through irregular or improper means.”
State legislatures and court cases in front of state judges are the best source for making such probes and determinations, not federal bureaucracies and agencies, according to Warner.
"One size does not fit all when it comes to post-election audits and methods to add confidence in the process. Open dialogue on every aspect of the election process should take place with state legislatures. I ask my colleagues and congressional representatives to do just that." Warner said.
“The US Constitution states the times, places and manner of elections shall be prescribed by the state legislatures,” Warner said. “Let’s abide by the Constitution.”