By Chuck FlanneryDeputy Secretary of State& Chief of Staff
Charleston, W.Va.— Upon taking office, Secretary of State Mac Warner embarked on a comprehensive effort to restore integrity in voting and election security by increasing voter confidence, lowering apathy in the process and ensuring that every vote counts on November 6th. We are rapidly approaching Election Day so it is increasingly important for voters to be aware of the protections in place and to be reminded to stay vigilant.
First and foremost, West Virginia election processes and procedures are among the most secure in America. Our most notable election securities include public pre-election testing of all voting devices and tabulating equipment, a prohibition on all voting equipment to touch the internet and a robust post-election audit of the electronic tallies of votes. This is all possible because each and every vote cast in West Virginia has a voter verified paper trail that will allow the voter to see their ballot markings for a recreation of the election in a worst case scenario. There is not a single report of even one vote being altered in 2016 by Russian tampering; not one in the entire USA!
The response from the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office was unique from most other states. Secretary Warner took a lead role in tearing down unnecessary walls of communication between state and federal agencies by requesting clearance to SECRET level information for state election officials and by joining as a founding member in the local, state and federal partnership of the Elections Infrastructure Council (EIC) to develop protocols on how federal agencies communicate threats to state and local election officials. The organizing of the EIC provides a unified voice from all levels of election officials in an effort to coordinate resources and communication between agencies.
Security assessments coming out of West Virginia’s 2016 elections demanded we take action to shore up our posture of election systems, most notably cyber protections. An advanced partnership between the West Virginia National Guard (WVNG) and the Secretary of State allows a constant monitoring of web traffic around our elections systems and vulnerability tests of our networks.
Maj. Gen. Hoyer and his team at the WVNG have also been a strong partner in preparations for early voting and Election Day. Our offices and the West Virginia Office of Technology have beefed up monitoring for any indication of attacks or disruption of services on all election systems while registration databases are being prepared for poll books on Election Day.
If not the first, West Virginia was one of the first states to secure funding to help county clerks update election equipment and physical security, as well as ADA improvements, to polling locations. Through the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) supported by our congressional delegation, Secretary Warner secured more than $6.5 million for a matching fund grant program to assist county clerks in 41 counties. With the matching funds from local county resources, more than $12 million in improvements have been made or will be made in the near future.
These efforts have allowed many counties to upgrade their voting equipment heading into the midterms and the 2020 elections. During the 2016 elections, 84 percent of West Virginia voters casted ballots on voting equipment purchased prior to 2004. During the 2018 midterm election, 43 percent of voters will be using updated equipment due to leveraging funds for voting equipment with the counties. That percentage will increase to at least 64 percent in 2020.
Read more about West Virginia’s efforts to protect our elections at www.SecureElectionsWV.com.
Preparations against foreign interference do not end with election officials. It is imperative that everyone keep a watchful eye out for election misinformation that could be used to confuse voters heading into the election. Alert election officials if you see suspicious activity on social media. Twitter and Facebook have given us great access to report misinformation immediately.
Be prepared and do not wait until Election Day! Use trusted sources like www.GoVoteWV.com or contact your county clerk to find your polling location and what identification can be used at the polls. If there are any unforeseen issues on Election Day, please do not walk away without casting a ballot. Request a provisional ballot! That ballot will be counted at canvass once any issues are resolved. Your ballot is your voice and the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office stands prepared to assist you in casting your vote and ensuring that it is counted safely and securely on Election Day.
Early voting started October 24th. Already, we’re hearing of increased voter interest in this General Election. We here in the Secretary of State’s Office want voters to know that now, more than ever, election security is a priority in West Virginia. Secretary Warner, our staff and county clerks throughout the state encourage all registered voters to participate.
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