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EDITORIAL: ‘Be Registered and Be Ready to Vote’ campaign spreading needed information

Times West Virginian editorial

Wide availability of information is important with West Virginia’s voter identification law going into effect Jan. 1.

That’s the purpose behind Secretary of State Mac Warner’s announcement last week of a new program to educate the public on the law.

The “Be Registered and Be Ready to Vote” campaign, his office announced, will help educate voters on the kinds of photo and non-photo identification required at the polls starting in 2018. The public campaign will also address exceptions and frequently asked questions.

“With some municipalities holding city elections at the beginning of the year, we want the public to be aware they will need to show some kind of identification to poll workers,” Warner said. “We want the process to be easy for our voters and to make clear that no voter will be turned away from a polling place because of lack of ID.”

Beginning Jan. 1, 2018, voters must show a form of identification to vote in person during the early voting period or on Election Day. Any ID must be valid.

This new law does not apply to absentee-by-mail voting.

The Secretary of State’s Election Division is working with county clerks to provide free photo IDs to registered voters who otherwise do not have one of the many forms of identifying documents.

The office is also working with a diverse group of stakeholders to help develop the education campaign, including distributing 40,000 rack cards across the state.

The organizations include West Virginia County Clerk’s Association, West Virginia Association of Counties, West Virginia Municipal League, West Virginia Press Association, West Virginia Bureau of Senior Services, ACLU of West Virginia, West Virginia Republican Party, West Virginia Democratic Party, West Virginia Mountain Party, Libertarian Party of West Virginia, NAACP West Virginia, Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs, West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance, West Virginia Citizen Action Group, League of Women Voters of West Virginia and Disability Rights of West Virginia.

Acceptable forms of non-photo identification include voter registration card, Medicare card or Social Security card, birth certificate, West Virgina hunting or fishing license, West Virginia SNAP ID card, West Virginia TANF program ID card, West Virginia Medicaid ID card, bank or debit card, utility bill or bank statement issued within six months of the date of the election and health insurance card issued to the voter.

Acceptable forms of photo identification include West Virginia driver’s license or other West Virginia ID card issued by the Division of Motor Vehicles, driver’s license issued by another state, U.S. passport or passport card, military ID card issued by the U.S., U.S. or West Virginia government employee ID card, student ID card and a concealed carry (pistol/revolver) permit.

There are exceptions to the law. People can still vote on Election Day if they show up with someone they’ve known for the last six months, who would have to have his or her identification. The second exception is if a poll worker has known the voter for at least six months. The third exception is residents of licensed state care facilities. They do not have to show identification if they are residents of the care facility, the care facility is a polling place and the resident’s polling place is located at the care facility.

Donald Kersey, elections director and deputy legal counsel for the Secretary of State’s office, stressed that education is the goal — not preventing people from voting.

“It’s scary for some, but as you dig down in the weeds on what voters are required to show on Election Day, it’s not that big of a deal,” he said.

The “Be Registered and Be Ready to Vote” campaign is a key to getting the word spread across West Virginia.

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