Mac Warner: Voter list maintenance the foundation for election security

September 20, 2018

The foundation to providing secure elections is an updated and accurate voter registration list. In West Virginia, there are 1,271,563 citizens currently registered to vote.

Citizens must first register to vote to participate in our election process. They do so by registering with the county clerk in the county where the voter lives. County clerks maintain voter registration files, and do all the list maintenance.

I encourage everyone to check the status of your voter registration and to insure names, addresses, party affiliation and other key data is up to date. Doing so reduces delays and confusion at polling places.

By working closely with our 55 county clerks over the last 19 months, West Virginia has removed 102,797 outdated, duplicate, deceased and convicted felon voter files from the state’s voter registration lists. During the same time, we’ve registered 78,262 new voters - including 22,518 high school students.

In West Virginia, we’ve made it easy for all eligible citizens to register to vote and to keep their registration updated. You can register (1) by mail; (2) by visiting your county clerk; or (3) by going online to www.GoVoteWV.com. To participate in the November 6th General Election, eligible citizens must register to vote by October 16th.

Registered voters who are ill, who may be unavailable, or who are out of town on election day can vote an absentee paper ballot.

You can learn more about the absentee ballot process by calling your county clerk or by clicking this link: https://sos.wv.gov/elections/Pages/AbsenteeVotingInformation.aspx. Absentee voting begins on September 21st.

Absentee ballots mailed and postmarked by Election Day and received by the start of Canvass will be counted. However, absentee ballots mailed and postmarked after Election Day will not be counted. If an absentee ballot does not bear a postmark, they will be counted if received by no later than the day after Election Day.

For hand-delivery, absentee ballots must be delivered to the County Clerk’s office by the day before Election Day. Although voters do not have to personally return his or her absentee ballot, no one person may deliver more than two voters’ absentee ballots.

Military voters and their spouses in 21 West Virginia counties who are currently stationed or located outside the country have the option in the upcoming November election to vote absentee via a mobile voting application. West Virginia is the first state in the nation to deploy this secure voting option for military and overseas voters. You can watch a video about this easy-to-use mobile application by clicking on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I8Mphur0YEU&t=2s

The West Virginia Secretary of State’s security effort includes assisting counties with the protection of voter registration lists, physical security and cybersecurity. We are very pleased to work with county clerks to help prevent hacking or breaches in all phases of our election process. West Virginia was the first state in the nation to employ an IT professional with top security clearance and to place that employee in the West Virginia Fusion Center. The Fusion Center monitors the state’s critical infrastructure and technology services 24-hours a day.

This past week, I was invited to participate in the first-ever National Election Security Summit in St. Louis.

I had a chance to speak one-on-one with Homeland Security Secretary Kirsten Neilson, as well as Missouri Senator Blunt.

Senator Blunt is on the Intelligence Committee and has taken a leading role in U.S. election integrity. Both of these national officials listened intently to what we were doing in West Virginia to increase election security, and asked for continual dialogue as we encounter cyber penetration attempts by foreign governments. They also asked we share ideas that we develop in West Virginia that can help nationwide.

Back in July, we hosted the state’s first Election Security Conference in Morgantown attended by more than 160 county clerks and staff members from all over the state.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recognized the importance of state-level conferences like ours and sent their top management representatives to participate.

The conference received national media attention, with HBO’s Vice News headline reading, “2 days of the most advanced election security training just went down-at a West Virginia Holiday Inn.”

Read more about coverage of the Morgantown conference by going to: https://news.vice.com/en_us/article/8xb8wp/2-days-of-the-most-advanced-election-security-training-just-went-down-at-a-west-virginia-holiday-inn.

Just last week, we allocated $6.5 million in grants to help counties update their election systems, improve cyber security, provide physical security for election equipment and improve access to polling locations.

By leveraging these funds with 50/50 matching requirements by the counties, these grants generated more than $12 million in overall improvements across West Virginia.

In West Virginia, we’re working together - the Secretary of State’s Office, our county clerks, the National Guard and the West Virginia Fusion Center - to provide safe, fair and secure elections.

Working with the resources and support provided to us by the federal government, we’ll continue to lead the nation.

Mac Warner is the West Virginia Secretary of State.

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