CHARLESTON – I am very pleased to report that West Virginia hosted a very successful November General Election.vHere are a few of the highlights from my perspective as the state’s chief elections officer.
Approximately 593,900 ballots were cast statewide resulting in 48 percent voter turnout. A total of 183,205 West Virginians voted early or turned in an absentee ballot during the early voting period that ran October 24 to November 3. Early voting was historic and turnout was robust — at least 10 percent higher than the 2014 midterms.
We had phenomenal voter turnout, and I couldn’t be more pleased. Our office and county clerks worked hard to make this election a success and all our efforts paid off.
High voter turnout was due to a variety of factors, not the least of which was an energized electorate and several key races that included the U.S. Senate and two West Virginia Supreme Court races.
Military and overseas voters in 24 West Virginia counties had, for the first time, an easy and hassle-free way to participate in this year’s General Election. Approximately 144 military and overseas West Virginians voted from 30 different countries using a mobile voting application. This is a first-in-the-nation project that allowed uniformed services members and overseas citizens to use a mobile application to cast a ballot secured by blockchain technology.
West Virginians were eager to get out and exercise their right to vote. My administration has been working closely with our county clerks to address a lack of confidence in the election process that resulted in low voter turnout in previous elections. We will continue to work together to restore voters’ confidence in an effort to keep voter participation increasing in future elections.
The Secretary of State’s partnerships with the West Virginia National Guard, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the WV Fusion Center have become a model for other states as it relates to a meaningful and effective cybersecurity strategy to protect our election systems.
Working with our congressional delegation, West Virginia secured $6.5 million in federal funding to help counties upgrade their voting machines, for physical security of election equipment and for state-of-the-art technology upgrades. These much needed improvements contributed to West Virginians feeling confident that the ballot they cast was private, secure and properly counted.
As an example of the recognition West Virginia is receiving on the national level, there is a video explaining how "one of the smallest states in the nation is taking the biggest lead in shoring up their election cybersecurity."
The Secretary of State’s Office also actively worked to make the election process as transparent as possible.
Our new user-friendly website provides voters full disclosure when it comes to election-specific issues such as campaign finance and election night reporting. Leading up to the election, our eight-week “Project Election Protection” public education campaign kept voters up-to-date on correct election procedures and rules. Voters took the lead in reporting suspicious campaign or election activity by calling our Investigations hotline at 877-FRAUD-WV.
When talking about election success, our 55 county clerks are an indispensable factor. In fact, less than 20 months since my administration took office, our county clerks authorized the cancellation of 104,833 voter registrations of outdated, duplicate, deceased or convicted felon voters. That effort demonstrates to West Virginians that the Secretary of State’s Office is dedicated to maintaining the integrity of our voter lists. Conversely, our county clerks registered 92,189 new voters during the same period. 29,075 of those new voters were high school students.
All 55 county clerks took the initiative in Election Day preparations, engaged in best practices and measures, and planned for every conceivable scenario that could happen on Election Day. That preparation allowed us to quickly address Election Day situations such as power outages, equipment malfunctions and distribution of extra voting machines to precincts that experienced long lines.
The goal of our public education effort is to identify and prevent illegal and unethical campaign behavior. We would rather ensure compliance with the law than seek criminal convictions. Meeting that goal was enhanced by a 30-member Election Day monitoring team that visited all 55 counties on Election Day.
On November 6th, more than 9,000 Election Day workers manned 1,740 voting precincts throughout the state. There was another great example of national news coverage by HBO’s Vice News highlighting West Virginia’s emphasis on safe and secure elections.
The 2018 midterm election is now in the history books. I am very proud of our Elections Division, our support team, our county clerks and their staff. I also want to congratulate the 508 candidates who sought federal, state, county and local positions this year. I look forward to working with those individuals who were elected.
Electing our representatives is the cornerstone of our democracy. I am thankful to be the Secretary of State for the wonderful people of West Virginia. Working together, we will continue our pioneering ways of the past while leading our nation in providing safe, secure and fair elections for the future.
Warner is West Virginia's Secretary of State.