Working hand-in-hand with the county clerks, state election officials achieved remarkable results to increase the uniformity of election integrity processes in West Virginia. Consequently, West Virginia ranked as a top-ten state for bipartisan election confidence in 2020 as reported by MIT.
Secretary Warner highlighted these successes and discussed plans and preparations for the 2022 election cycle in West Virginia with each of the 55 County Clerks on July 26 at the County Clerks’ Elections Training Conference at the Bridgeport Conference Center.
Strengthening election integrity began by working closely with county clerks to ensure a systematic and uniform approach to cleaning up the state’s list of registered voters. Warner and the county clerks were surprised to learn that the outcome of the process would identify more than 25% of the statewide list had outdated voter data. Thanks to the clerks, that old data no longer bloats the voter file.
“When 25% of your voter registration consists of inaccurate or ineligible data, the voter turnout is artificially low and not representative of West Virginia’s active voting population,” Warner said. “This appearance leads to apathy and concern over election integrity.”
As of July 1, 2021, Warner announced that a total of over 364,000 outdated, duplicate, deceased and convicted felon voter files were removed from the Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS). To Warner, each of these voter files with outdated data presented an opportunity for voter fraud, irregularities and decreased confidence in our elections.
From 2000 to 2018, only two West Virginia counties posted a voter turnout of 70% or more. In 2020, ten counties achieved 70% or better turnout, and Warner hopes that number be even higher in future WV general elections.
“These files were for names of people who were no longer alive, had moved, were duplicates, or had lost their right to vote while serving a sentence after a felony conviction,” Warner said. “These files did not depict an accurate reflection of actual eligible voters, and we are very proud to now have the cleanest and most accurate voter files in the history of West Virginia.”
County clerks’ efforts to increase accountability and transparency in West Virginia’s election process will also be highlighted in the County Clerks Elections training. The implementation of voter ID and reporting to the state the results of every post-election audit were two major efforts to increase the integrity and transparency prior to the 2020 election cycle.
“The implementation of voter ID at the time of voting makes for a strong election integrity foundation that instills confidence in voters,” Warner noted. “Voter ID and transparent post-election audits held prior to certification of election results continue to increase the trust in West Virginia’s elections.”
While voter list maintenance, voter ID and transparent post-election audits are important, so too is the effort to register new voters. Since Warner took office in 2017, he and the clerks have registered an incredible 255,888 new voters in West Virginia. That number includes nearly 67,000 high school students.
“That’s a tremendous number for a state as small as West Virginia, and our clerks should be proud of this achievement,” Warner said. “When you restore people’s confidence in the integrity of their elections, they want to participate. West Virginians know that we’re making it easy to vote and hard to cheat.”
Warner said that he presented this information and data on other efforts at the WV County Clerks Conference that the Secretary of State hosts on a bi-annual basis. The gathering allows cross-level analysis between state and local officials which will help set the stage for the midterm elections. This year’s conference was held at the Bridgeport Conference Center.