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Editorial: Cleaning up W.Va. elections

The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register editorial

Eleven states are being threatened with lawsuits if they do not clean up their voter registration lists, the Judicial Watch organization revealed a few days ago.

If you are a West Virginian, the announcement may well have prompted a “here we go again” reaction. Our state is notorious for vote fraud and registration lists replete with dead people, after all.

Not this time. Judicial Watch’s lawsuit threat extends to Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina and Tennessee. We are not on it.

Just a few months ago, we might have been. But there is a new voter registration sheriff in town. He is Secretary of State Mac Warner, who took office Jan. 16. Cleaning up voter registration rolls was one of his first priorities in taking office.

In just three months, Warner, working with local election officials in all 55 counties, has managed to work wonders. In early March, his office revealed that 36,635 outdated voter registration files from throughout the state had been canceled.

Voter registration rolls can contain names of people ineligible to cast ballots for many reasons. Sometimes they have moved. In other cases they died. Actual attempts at fraud are very rare.

Nearly all the legwork in such cases has to be handled by county election officials. They deserve enormous credit for the ongoing job of ensuring voter registration lists are as current and accurate as possible.

But how is it that just six weeks after taking office, Warner was able to make his announcement?

One word: priorities. For years, the secretary of state’s office did not seem to view accurate registration lists as important enough to launch a statewide campaign. That changed when Warner took office.

His initiative — again, combined with the hard work of county election officials — has meant that for a change, a black eye we West Virginians bore collectively has been cured.

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