West Virginia has a sordid history of election fraud. State Supreme Court Chief Justice Allen Loughry filled 532 pages in his book “Don’t Buy Another Vote. I Won’t Pay For A Landslide” with the many tales of political scofflaws.
State elections have come a long way from the days when cash and liquor fueled the “dollar-and-a-swallow” campaigns. Still, there’s work to be done and the county clerks, along with Secretary of State Mac Warner, are making progress.
Most of their work since the last election has been focused on simple housekeeping—cleaning up the registration lists of individuals who cannot or should not be voting. For example, Warner’s office teamed with the clerks to strike 6,300 names of deceased voters from the books.
There’s no evidence the dead were actually voting, but it is still important to keep the rolls up-to-date.
The county and state election officials also cross-referenced for voters who were registered in more than one county (meaning they could potentially vote twice), had moved away or were convicted felons who had not yet had their voting rights restored.
So far, the clerks have canceled 63,346 improper or outdated voter registrations since January 16th, and there’s more to come. Next, Warner’s office and the county clerks are going to turn their attention to individuals who may be registered in more than one state.
For example, a West Virginian retires to Florida and registers to vote there, but never cancels their registration here. It’s not illegal to be registered in more than one state, but it is, of course, against the law to vote more than once in an election. Warner’s office is currently investigating to see if anyone has voted twice.
On the flip side, another 16,951 new voters have registered since mid-January. Warner’s office says that’s an unusually high number considering this is not an election year. Overall, however, the number of registered voters has declined from 1,276,785 last November to 1,224,623 as of last May.
The purging has hurt Democratic registration more than Republican, which is to be expected since the Democratic Party has more members. Democratic registration has fallen from 571,267 last November to 537,791 as of May 2017. Republican registration has dropped from 398,547 to 388,703 over the same period.
Warner has heard some grumbling from a few Democratic county clerks who believe the Republican Secretary of State is trying to target Democrats, but the purge has been non-partisan. The numbers are the numbers.
As of the end of May, 44 percent of voters were Democrats, 32 percent Republican, 21 percent independent/no party and three percent were Mountain, Libertarian or other.
Maintaining accurate voting rolls is not as easy as it might seem. Election officials have to strike a balance between updating information while ensuring that a properly registered voter isn’t turned away at the polls, and all-the-while protecting the privacy of every voter.
The effort so far by the 55 county clerks and Warner’s office has been impressive. Keep it up!