By JIM McCONVILLE
MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Current national skepticism about voter fraud and international election tampering notwithstanding, West Virginia’s voter rolls have grown this year.
Despite increased voter wariness, fueled in part by charges of election tampering by Russia during the 2016 presidential election, the Mountain State’s voter rolls have grown by an estimated 34,685 voters this year, according to Secretary of State Mac Warner, who spoke about the election process at the Robert C. Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education auditorium at Shepherd University on Wednesday.
Warner’s talk was part of the college’s new series focusing on civic education and voter issues. The series was developed as a cooperative effort with the Byrd Center, Shepherd University’s Lifelong Learning program, the League of Women Voters of Jefferson County, the Jefferson County NAACP, the Republican Party of Jefferson County, Democrats of Jefferson County, the Libertarian Party of West Virginia and the Mountain Party.
Warner spoke for 75 minutes, which included a Q&A period where he fielded questions from a conference room of about 30 people.
In the Eastern Panhandle, Berkeley County added 3,438 voters to reach 73,850 this year; Jefferson County added 1,715 to reach 38,443; and Morgan County added 525 to now total 13,180, Warner said. Overall, the state now has an estimated 1,224,600 registered voters.
The Secretary of State’s Office has also added brand new voters to the Eastern Panhandle’s rolls with 735 voters between the age of 17-18 signed up in Berkeley County, 335 in Jefferson County and 114 in Morgan County.
The Secretary of State’s Office has also removed 76,483 voters from the state’s rolls after determining the voters are either now deceased or have moved out of the state.
West Virginia’s electoral process gets a new wrinkle year with the addition of the “valid identifying document” requirement where voters need to present an official ID that includes a photograph.
An official state driver’s license will qualify as a valid ID, Warner said.
Warner acknowledged the country’s national electoral process has been assaulted by an outside force: Russia.
“We are being hacked folks. We are being pinged. We are being fought after,” Warner said. “It’s not just in our elections system, but it’s in social media–Facebook, Google, Twitter. The Russians did in fact try to impact our elections. They simply wanted to disrupt what was going on in the American democratic process.”
Officials must take a proactive role in dutiful voter monitoring to ensure sound elections, Warner said.
This summer, Warner was one of four secretaries of state who participated in a cybersecurity security “tabletop exercise” run by the Belfer Center at Harvard’s Kennedy School. The secretaries worked with cybersecurity experts from Google and Facebook, as well as officials from the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
Warner said the workshop reaffirmed his conviction for tighter cybersecurity vigilance for elections.
“We need to be out in front of this — not reacting, but be proactive in fighting against this,” Warner said. “We need to partner with the leading firms in the United States with regards to cyber technology run by the best minds in the country.”
Staff writer Jim McConville can be reached at 304-263-8931, ext. 215, or [email protected]
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