West Virginians will soon be able to register to vote online through the Secretary of State’s website. Secretary of State Natalie Tennant made the announcement Tuesday at BridgeValley Community and Technical College in South Charleston as part of National Voter Registration Month. “This is going to add accessibility for eligible voters in West Virginia,” said Tennant, following a news conference. It will be as simple as going to a computer, a smart phone or tablet and logging onto www.wvsos.com, according to Tennant.
here will be several changes during the 2016 election process in West Virginia. For the first time, West Virginia voters will choose their judges during next May’s primary election without any indications of political party affiliations on the ballots. The state law allowing for nonpartisan judicial elections officially took effect in June. The change will apply to elections, by division, for the state Supreme Court along with circuit court, family court and magistrate court. “That’ll be a big change for the voters. Now they’re not in the bulk of the ballot on the front where it’s partisan races. They actually shift to the back as non-partisan races, such as school board and different items like that,” said Putnam County Clerk Brian Ward, who spoke to MetroNews during a statewide election planning conference Monday in Charleston.
West Virginia: DMV partners with Secretary of State to offer electronic voter registration | Associated Press
The West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles, in cooperation with the secretary of state, announced Thursday that a statewide electronic voter registration program has been installed at each of the 24 DMV regional office locations. Customers may now electronically register to vote when they visit any DMV regional office for the purpose of issuing or renewing a driver’s license or identification card.
Voters in at least eight West Virginia counties have been mailed “misleading and confusing” material that may make them incorrectly believe they aren’t eligible to vote in next month’s election, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said Tuesday. The leaflets — mailed by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation — warn voters that if they do not update their voter registration, they may lose their right to vote in the upcoming primary election on May 13. The mailings included voter registration cards and prepaid return envelopes addressed to county clerks. Tuesday was the last day to register to vote for the May 13 primary, and a Tennant spokesman said the mailing could convince people whose voter registrations are perfectly valid that they aren’t allowed to vote.
West Virginia: Funding an issue for Supreme Court candidate public financing; program to have $1.5M balance | Associated Press
Pleased that a public financing experiment for Supreme Court candidates is now a permanent program, West Virginia’s State Election Commission also noted Thursday that it will only have an estimated $1.5 million to offer when a court seat is next on the ballot in 2016. The commission voted to approve proposed revisions to the program’s rules, following passage of legislation expanding what had been a one-election pilot. But commission members were also mindful that the recently concluded session did not include additional funding or revenue sources for the program. Lawmakers instead took $1.5 million from the program’s balance, after Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin requested it for other budgetary needs. That leaves $1.1 million, while the state treasurer is scheduled to provide an additional $400,000 by July 2015, Timothy Leach, a lawyer for Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, said during Thursday’s meeting.
After 35 days of the legislative session, there’s been more talk in the West Virginia House of Delegates on guns and pepperoni rolls than voter identification laws. With several bills before both legislative chambers, though, that could change at any minute, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said. “The way I look at it is, in the beginning, even before the session started, I read in the paper and I was asked questions when folks were saying that this was going to be their priority bill,” Tennant said Wednesday. “When this was something to add burdens, to add more restrictions, more burdens to voters, that was going to be their priority.”
Many voters who showed up to the polls last November did not think to bring along a photo ID, nor did they need to. That could change with West Virginia’s upcoming legislative session, during which voter ID laws are expected to be discussed. According to a recent report by the Associated Press, a GOP proposal would mandate voters present photo ID at polls and help those who don’t have such identification to obtain one.
West Virginia is preparing for debate on its own voter identification bill this year, amid a changing political climate in the state and circumstances that differ from election fights in Pennsylvania. On Nov. 6, Republican lawmakers in the state capital saw the biggest surge in their ranks since the 1920s, with the addition of 11 new members to the state House and the ouster of the incumbent Democratic attorney general. Party leaders are hoping that momentum, when mixed with the notorious history of political mischief in the state, could lead to adopting a voter ID bill similar to one approved by the GOP-controlled Pennsylvania Legislature last year.
Armed with their largest share of the House of Delegates in decades, West Virginia Republicans plan to resume their push to require voters to show photo identification at the polls, adding the state to a growing group that expect to debate the topic this year. House Minority Leader Tim Armstead said the GOP proposal would mandate a photo ID while helping those who don’t have such identification to obtain one. The bill is expected during the 2013 regular session of the Legislature, which begins Feb. 13. “Requiring identification when voting is a simple step that we can take to make our elections fairer and to ensure that the outcome of our elections actually reflects the will of our citizens,” said Armstead, a Kanawha County lawyer. “People are required to show identification to cash a check, to enter many sporting and other events, and to open bank accounts.”
West Virginia will use technology from Scytl for an online ballot system for military members and other voters who are overseas. Barcelona-based Scytl said Wednesday that the state used its technology in eight counties under a pilot program during the 2010 elections.
Recent federal court rulings appear to threaten West Virginia’s $1,000-per-election cap on contributions to political action committees that spend independently of candidates, U.S. District Judge Thomas Johnston said at a Wednesday hearing. But Johnston held off ruling immediately on whether to block the cap temporarily. Stay the Course West Virginia and two of its would-be contributors, an individual and a corporation, sued in May alleging the state limit chills their free speech rights. They requested the preliminary injunction pending the outcome of their lawsuit. With 97 days before the general election, the independent expenditure PAC says it seeks to support certain incumbents while targeting their opponents.
An independent political action committee and a group of potential donors are suing West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant and the state’s prosecuting attorneys, arguing that some of the state’s election laws and policies violate their First Amendment rights. Stay the Course West Virginia, an unaffiliated independent expenditure PAC; David Bailey, chairman and treasurer of Stay the Course; Pineville Lumber Inc., a West Virginia company and potential donor; and Thomas Stephen Bailey, a resident and potential donor, filed their complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia Wednesday. In addition to Tennant, the plaintiffs name Scott Ash, prosecuting attorney for Mercer County, as a defendant in the suit. He is being sued as the representative of class of 55 prosecuting attorneys in the state, who are responsible for enforcing the criminal penalties associated with the state’s Election Code.
West Virginia: Stay the Course West Virginia sues Secretary of State over code prohibiting corporate expenditures | State Journal
In a recently filed federal lawsuit, a West Virginia independent expenditure political action committee says a Secretary of State policy that prohibits independent expenditures by corporations limits free speech rights. Stay the Course West Virginia and its chairman David Bailey along with Pineville Lumber Inc. and Kanawha County voter Thomas Stephen Bailey filed the suit May 23 against Secretary of State Natalie Tennant and Mercer County Prosecutor Scott Ash. Bailey created Stay the Course West Virginia to make independent expenditures supporting the re-election of certain incumbents before the state’s November general election. However, the state’s election code prohibits a person from contributing more than $1,000 to candidates running for any public office, the suit states. “Any person violating any provision of West Virginia Code… is guilty of a misdemeanor and is subject to a fine of not more than $1,000 and/or confinement in jail for not more than one year,” the suit notes.
West Virginia: Officials question ballot procedures – Tennant still under fire for inmate on ballot | News and Sentinel
The West Virginia Legislature can control who can get on a primary election ballot, but it can’t exceed federal law on a candidate’s eligibility, election officials said. State officials and others have been looking at options after imprisoned felon Keith Judd attracted nearly 41 percent of the vote against President Barack Obama this month in the West Virginia primary. While there have been criticisms Judd should never have gotten on the ballot, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said Judd met all of the legal requirements to be on the ballot. Judd qualified for the Democratic primary ballot after he mailed in a candidacy form and paid a $2,500 filing fee from Texas. He’s serving a 17-year federal prison sentence in Texas. Statewide results from the May 8 primary show Judd with 73,138 votes to Obama’s 106,770.
The nation has moved on after its brief fixation last week with the felon who won 41 percent against Barack Obama, but West Virginia continues to wrestle with the aftermath of its May 8 primary. Phil Kabler of the Charleston Gazette reported this weekend on two conspiracy theories making the rounds. The first holds that GOP operatives were working behind the scenes to gin up the vote for Keith Judd as a means of embarassing Obama. The second speculates that top Democratic Party officials “went to lengths to assure that West Virginia voters would not be aware that he was a convicted inmate sitting in a federal prison in Texas.”
We’re in the middle of another contentious primary election season and a debate has emerged about whether voters should be required to provide state-issued identification at polling precincts. Currently West Virginia election law follows the Help America Vote Act, federal regulations which outline voting practices and standards. Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said during an interview with The State Journal’s Decision Makers that a process is in place now that provides checks to the identification and registration process. ” … While Tennant agrees with making more elections more secure, she said she has concerns over whether this type of requirement would discourage or intimidate some potential voters from participating in the election process. “It is a right and not a privilege to vote,” said Tennant. “Someone who doesn’t drive, can’t get there to get a card, or can’t afford a state issued ID card.”
National: Online Voting: Just A Dream Until Security Issues Can Be Fully Addressed, Experts Say | Courant.com
Allowing citizens to cast ballots online would increase participation in elections and make democracy more accessible. But don’t expect to vote on your iPhone in Connecticut anytime soon; the technology just isn’t there to ensure secure elections, said several experts who participated in a panel discussion at Central Connecticut State University Thursday night hosted by Secretary of the State Denise Merrill.
“The biggest concern I have about Internet voting is that we don’t know how to do it securely,” said Ron Rivest, an expert in cryptology and a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “It sounds wonderful but it’s an oxymoron. … We don’t have Internet experts who know how to secure big pieces of the Internet from attack. Rivest called online voting a fantasy and said it’s at least two decades from replacing the methods currently in use.
Alex Halderman, a computer science professor at the University of Michigan, is another skeptic. He led a team of students from the university who successfully penetrated a test-run of Internet voting in Washington, D.C., in 2010. “We began … role playing — how would a hacker, a real malicious attacker, attempt to break in and compromise the vote and, within 48 hours of the start of the test, we had gained virtually complete control of the voting server and changed all of the votes,” he said.
The West Virginia Supreme Court has rejected a request by Janet “J.T.” Thompson, Charleston Mayor Danny Jones’ lone challenger in the May election, to block Charleston City Council from holding a hearing on her claims of voter fraud. According to the Court’s order list Friday, all five justices voted to turn down her request for a writ of prohibition.
Jennifer Bundy, a spokeswoman for the Court, said Monday the individual order was not yet ready. The Court’s ruling means that the results of the tribunal, which rejected all of Thompson’s claims, will remain.
Although some county clerks in the state have yet to be reimbursed for the cost of the last election in May, they already are gearing up for the return of voters to the polls.
Kanawha County Clerk Vera McCormick said the state has not yet paid the county the approximately $314,000 it cost to hold the special primary election in May. And now that her employees are preparing for the upcoming special gubernatorial general election on Oct. 4, the county will soon be racking up more bills. “We’d like to have our money,” McCormick said.
West Virginia: County surprised that it is responsible for voting machine maintenance | ReviewOnline.com
Hancock County Clerk Eleanor Straight called news that the county would soon be responsible for maintenance on its touch-screen voting machines “a surprise” with renewal of the five-year maintenance agreement due Sept. 1.
Straight told the Hancock County Commission on Thursday that all the county clerks in the state responsible for election operations just learned of the local responsibility.
In a letter to the commission, West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said that the acceptance agreement approved five years ago states the county commission would take over ownership of the voting machines and be responsible for maintenance after the five-year maintenance agreement ended. At that point, she said, her office would be released of responsibility.
Kanawha County commissioners will have to come up with $60,000 to $70,000 to pay for maintenance of electronic voting machines. Secretary of State Natalie Tennant’s office was in the process of negotiating a statewide maintenance contract with Electronic Systems and Software that could have reduced the cost for counties, Commission President Kent Carper said.
But, Carper believes the negotiations must have stalled and the counties around the state were left holding the bag. “And we have an election coming up,” he said. Warranties for the machines expire at the end of September.
West Virginia is hosting Secretaries of State from across the country this week. The annual meeting for the National Association of Secretaries of State gets fully underway Monday morning at Glade Springs Resort in Raleigh County.
“It’s easy to be a great host in West Virginia,” Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said.
Those attending will be discussing 2012 election issues, business identity theft, the future of voting systems and new possible state laws for voting. They’ll learn about social media and business identity theft.