Secretary of State, county clerks urge residents to update addresses under National Change of Address process

By ANDREA LANNOM

The Register-Herald

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Within the next month, county clerks will be sending out confirmation cards to residents who haven’t voted in the last two federal elections to make sure addresses are current.

Secretary of State Mac Warner along with county clerks are urging residents to respond and make sure their addresses are current in order to keep voter records up to date. Raleigh County Clerk Danny Moore said response typically hasn’t been great.

“If you get a letter, please respond,” Moore said. “Just respond, whatever the case may be. If you continue to vote, if you’ve moved, whatever you have done, if you get a letter please respond.”

The process for the National Change of Address started last month. Donald Kersey, elections director and deputy legal counsel for the Secretary of State’s office, said under state code, the Legislature prescribes that on every odd-numbered year there is a data matching process through the National Change of Address, which is provided by the postal service. The USPS compiles the National Change of Address database of residents who have gone to the post office and asked to forward mail to another address.

Under state code, the Secretary of State’s office gets that list from USPS through a third party, an independent data facility that matches voter records with that National Change of Address data.

Residents are sent mail confirmations no later than Dec. 31. Those residents have until Feb. 1 to respond.

When a person misses two federal election, that person is identified as an idle voter, triggering the confirmation cards from county clerks.

If the card comes back as undeliverable or the person doesn’t respond at all, the voter is deemed inactive, Kersey explained. An inactive voter can still vote and will still be on the poll book.

“All it does is starts the clock for a potential cancellation,” he said. “If you’re inactive through two federal general elections and don’t cast your ballot for the next two, it may cause a cancelled registration under the code.”

Since January, more than 78,000 have been removed from the voter rolls, according to data from the Secretary of State’s office.

“A bulk is people who have moved out of the state,” Warner said. “Then there are probably a few thousand of those who have died and just as many convicted felons.”

Kersey noted that there have been more than 25,000 new registrations.

“Right now, the process is going pretty good,” Kersey said. “We have a list in house and have reviewed the data and are comparing with the data system to make sure no voter is mailed a confirmation card that shouldn’t be. Once we are finished with the list, we will send to county clerks to review and begin preparations to mail out confirmations.”

Mineral County Clerk Lauren Ellifritz said the process has been better this year than in the past.

“I think the communication process has gone a lot smoother this time around,” Ellifritz said. “There is a lot of information and it’s hard to keep up with all that communication. But there has been communication.”

Since the beginning of the year, Mineral County has removed 1,900 people from the voter rolls, Ellifritz said.

She said Mineral County is in the process of finishing its 911 addresses, which makes the numbers look higher where people still have rural routes or HC addresses and haven’t converted to the 911 addresses.

“It still shows up as an address change when it’s just a 911 address change,” she said.

She said during the last National Change of Address process, her office mailed out nearly 4,700 cards but since they were in the middle of the 911 addresses, there was a large number of responses.

“I would say typically we get a good response on them one way or another, whether that’s undeliverable or a response for a cancellation or address change. Considering the number we sent out, and the no responses, we’ve had good turnout.”

Moore, however, said response typically hasn’t been great in Raleigh County.

“That’s the frustrating part about it,” he said. “Some people just don’t care. Some people have moved and never get it back. There are different scenarios why we don’t get responses back. But to be honest, if you put it in the trash, we’ve already got the paid stamp on there and it’s a waste of taxpayer dollars. People need to take that into consideration. That’s their money and it’s going to the garbage dump.”

According to data from the Secretary of State’s office, Raleigh County has removed 5,101 people from the voter rolls since Jan. 16. However, Moore disagreed with that number. He said is working with the office to get the correct number and wants to make sure they send out the right amount of cards.

Moore said of people removed from the voter rolls, a lot of what he’s seen are people moving.

“You look at the state’s stats, we’re losing population. Especially here in Raleigh County, we’ve lost a lot of registered voters,” he said. “Of course, the Baby Boomers are becoming elderly, which I am one of, and most of us are dying off. It’s contributing to it all. People are moving and a lot of it too is people who are at the point of giving up. They don’t agree with Democrats and they don’t agree with Republicans. They have washed their hands of the process.”

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According to the Secretary of State’s office, from Jan. 16 to Nov. 16 of this year, there have been 78,331 voter registration cancellations statewide.

Here is a county breakdown according to that data:

Fayette: 601

Greenbrier: 874

Monroe: 2,285

Nicholas: 1,242

Raleigh: 5,101

Summers: 1,067

Wyoming: 606

Email: [email protected]; follow on Twitter @AndreaLannom

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