At the very core of our democracy and American values is the sanctity of the ballot box. Recent events at the national level have divided our electorate and made people distrustful of the election process. Rebuilding trust has become paramount, and that is done best by following the law.
As West Virginia’s chief election officer, I oversee the administration of free and fair elections in the state. Together with our 55 County Clerks and their Elections Divisions, we keep track of millions of dollars in campaign contributions, we maintain tight, accurate lists and assist hundreds of thousands of voters, we train thousands of poll workers, we register hundreds of candidates and we conduct dozens of investigations. We use the most modern equipment, we produce results in a timely fashion and we meticulously follow the law. Accordingly, I am pleased to tell you that West Virginia is a national leader in election integrity and voter confidence.
West Virginia’s May 10th Primary Election was a huge success, especially considering the variables at play. Of note, the state moved to 100 single-member House of Delegate districts, while at the same time, West Virginia lost a U.S. congressional seat. These factors led to districts being added or redrawn, while substantial numbers of voters were moved to new voting locations. Yet, we still had a voter turnout consistent with previous midterm elections.
As Secretary of State, my responsibilities include encouraging eligible voters to register to vote; eliminating barriers to the ballot box; and ensuring only eligible voters are participating. I’ve worked with the legislature to provide West Virginia citizens with more secure voting options than anywhere else in the country. Voters have access to a two-week early voting period, in-person voting on Election Day, excuse-based absentee voting by mail and even electronic voting for military, overseas citizens and voters with qualifying disabilities. West Virginia elections are more accessible than ever in state history.
By working with our state legislature, I am proud that West Virginia has enfranchised the most vulnerable segments of our population with absentee, early and electronic voting. Yet, I advocate that in-person voting is the gold standard for American voters. There is no better way to vote than at the polls, on Election Day, under the supervision of trained poll workers from both parties. In-person voting builds confidence as voters walk their completed ballot to the ballot box by hand. With trained poll workers and county staff, the in-person voting process has become a well-oiled machine in WV. Regardless of how you choose to vote, I assure you that your vote is secure. All properly-cast votes will be counted and any improper ballot will not be counted.
This recent Primary Election featured three nation-leading features for which West Virginian citizens should be proud. First, we continue to leverage technology to make voting accessible and easy for voters. The state created a first-in-the-nation interactive map that shows a voter’s district, voting location, sample ballot and other key information. This assists voters in making informed decisions ahead of time and insures they go to the correct poll location.
Second, we initiated the nation’s first “See Something, Text Something” program to assist voters in reporting fraud, intimidation and irregularities. Third, this primary featured the nation’s very first end-to-end ballot verification for electronic voting. That is, someone can now verify the vote they cast is exactly the same vote received by the county clerk. This capability greatly advances election integrity and secures the vote for the military and other people who put their lives on the line protecting our way of life. Information on all three of these “firsts” can be found at GoVoteWV.com.
Three times now, members of Congress have called me to Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, to explain how and why West Virginia has been so successful with our elections and maintaining election integrity. My testimony has been straightforward and consistent with what the county clerks tell me as I travel this great state: we follow the law. Our state legislature has done a wonderful job balancing access to the ballot box with security in the election process. So long as we follow the law and do not change the process in the middle of an election, voter confidence will continue to build. The tremendous success of the 2022 Primary Election should assure voters that their vote is secure, properly counted and their voices are heard.
I love this job and I want voters to know my election team and I are already working closely with county clerks to make sure the November 8th General Election is a great success. Now is the time to make sure you are registered, your voting information is correct, and you know your polling location. Don’t take our liberties for granted – get out and vote!