Secretary of State Mac Warner released some stunning figures this week during an appearance on MetroNews Talkline; the names of 47,490 outdated and ineligible voters have been removed from the voter rolls just since he took office.
Warner’s office and county clerks used the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) to clean up the rolls. ERIC allows participating states to compare voter eligibility records using voter registration and motor vehicle registrations, U.S. Postal Service addresses, and Social Security death records.
Those 47,490 names were struck for a variety of reasons. In the most common instance, a woman changed her name when married, reregistered and was on the rolls twice. Others moved away and registered in another county or state, but remained on the books in their original location. In other cases voters were never taken off the rolls after they died.
The sweep also turned up 1,170 individuals who are serving time for a felony conviction and are disqualified from voting. (Voting rights are restored once a person has served their sentence, including all probation and parole.)
Some counties had more housecleaning to do than others. For example, Calhoun County canceled 1,237 voters, which constitutes 21 percent of their voter registration rolls. Cabell and Grant eliminated nearly 12 percent of their registered voters.
Lincoln County, which had to recover from a scandal in the 2010 Primary Election, has purged over 9,000 ineligible voters. That work was done during the term of previous Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, working with the Lincoln County Clerk’s Office. Those numbers are not included in the 47,000 taken off statewide in the last three months.
Meanwhile, 10,106 new voters have been added just since the first of the year through an outreach program by Warner’s office. West Virginia’s current voter registration total is 1,233,703, but that’s going to change again. Warner is expected to announce a second sweep next week that will strike thousands more ineligible voters.
Warner does not believe the antiquated voter lists have contributed to any widespread voter fraud. The vast majority of these are clerical issues that just needed the attention of local and state election officials. However, it’s still possible that illegal votes slipped through the cracks. For example, if a voter registered in West Virginia and Ohio wanted to vote both places, who would know?
West Virginia has a long and sordid history of voter fraud. Federal investigators and elections officials have cleaned things up dramatically. However, it’s important to remain vigilant. Warner’s follow through on his campaign promise to make accurate voter rolls a priority is an example of that diligence.