Secretary of State’s website told local candidate he wasn’t registered to vote


Office says maintenance glitch to blame, unrelated to voter roll purges

BUCKHANNON – Upshur County’s Democratic candidate for the 45th District House of Delegates had been encouraging everyone he knew to check their voter registration.

Under West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner, new, more stringent mechanisms designed to clean up voter rolls have been implemented, and Kerner wanted to be sure no names were erroneously removed. He knew that as a result of the new procedures, more than 100,000 people had been removed from the voter roll, a number an official with the W.Va. Secretary of State confirmed Thursday morning.

So when Kerner logged on to the Secretary of State’s website Wednesday night, he was alarmed to find a search for his name returned a message that read, “We could not find your voter record” and encouraged him to check with his county clerk’s office or click on a link to register.

“I checked several times over I’m not sure how long of a period. I thought maybe I spelled my own name wrong or something,” he joked. “I had been telling other people to check and I thought everyone else probably should, but it came back that I had been purged.”

As it turns out, Kerner is registered; he was on the voter roll at 8 a.m. when Upshur County Clerk Carol Smith checked the Secretary of State’s website and remained on the books shortly thereafter at 11 a.m. when Kerner himself rechecked. W.Va. SOS Chief of Staff Chuck Flannery Thursday afternoon said Kerner’s experience could likely be chalked up to a glitch in the system.

“The likely cause of what happened was when at the time he was searching, the system was doing routine maintenance and it could have been at a time the information wasn’t available,” Flannery told The Record Delta after looking into the situation. “There’s a 15-minute window [when the system is undergoing maintenance] that the system isn’t available, and that’s the most likely explanation.”

Nonetheless, Flannery advised every voter who wants to cast their ballot in the Nov. 6 General Election to check to see if they are properly registered – and ensure their information, including address, voter precinct, etc. are up to date. Not sure how to check? Visit www.govotewv.com and under the “Voter Quick Links,” click on “Check my voter registration.”

The removal of over 100,000 names from the voter roll – what Kerner worried he had fallen victim to – is the result of several procedures newly implemented under Secretary of State Mac Warner, Flannery said.

“It’s a process that [has involved] a number of different factors,” he said. “The Secretary of State’s office doesn’t remove or alter any data itself, but rather provides tools to the county to keep their voter registration list current.”

How can someone be removed from the voter rolls? County clerks cross-check information they have on file with the W.Va. Department of Motor Vehicles to ensure the addresses match, with the Division of Corrections and  to make sure a voter isn’t “under current conviction of a felony,” Flannery said. Vital statistics are also compared to voter registration lists to ensure people who have died aren’t still registered to vote, and finally, county clerks offices compare their lists to the U.S. Postal Service’s  National Change of Address list once every two years. 

If a voter’s registration is flagged – due to mismatching addresses, for example – a confirmation card is sent to that voter.The voter then has 30 days to return the card and provide updated information. At that point, the voter’s registration is flagged as “inactive,” but Flannery said being labeled “inactive” isn’t synonymous with being purged.

“A person can still vote if they are flagged as inactive,” he said. But if the voter then fails to vote in the next two consecutive general elections, that’s when her or his name is removed from the list of registered voters by county clerks’ offices, Flannery added. The intention isn’t to bar people from casting their ballots, but rather to tidy up outdated lists.

“We’re not looking to kick people off voter rolls,” he said. “We’re looking to clean voter rolls up and we’re looking to save money because cleaner voter rolls will make it cheaper on Election Day regarding the number of ballots you print.”

Flannery also said partisan politics play no role in the new policies implemented under Warner.

“Party is not considered at all,” he said. “This is completely to keep the rolls accurate. There’s really no partisan affiliation to any of this. We follow the guidelines laid out in the National Voter Registration Act. We do take it very seriously, and party affiliation is never part of any consideration.”

But Smith, the Upshur County clerk, is still troubled by Kerner being unable to find his name. She said her office sent an email to the SOS office Thursday morning after the incident was reported and the SOS office wrote back, saying it was likely Kerner had stumbled upon a random glitch.

Smith isn’t completely satisfied with that answer, so she’s digging a little deeper.

“We actually have another email into them because after I sort of studied what they had in there, in the evening they actually turn the voter roll off so you can’t get into it,” she said. “I’d like to know for sure. That could have been it but [if that was the case], shouldn’t the message say something like ‘the system is down’ instead of ‘you’re not registered to vote.’”

Early voting in the Nov. 6 General Election runs from Oct. 24 to Nov. 3.

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