House approves voter registration legislation, sends to Senate

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A bill that would create an additional data base of West Virginia’s voter registration information will go back to the Senate for final approval.

After much back and forth on the House floor, delegates passed SB 591 in an 88-8 vote Tuesday.

House Judiciary Committee Vice Chair Patrick Lane (R-Kanawha) explained how it could help eliminate voter fraud.

“If someone from WV moves to Ohio, then the Secretary of State will be notified that person may not be eligible to vote in West Virginia any longer,” Lane said.

The legislation opens the door for WV to join more than a dozen other states sharing voter registration data through the Electronic Registration Information Center.

Adamantly opposed, Delegate Patsy Trecost (D-Harrison) argued the legislation duplicates existing DMV and voter registration data bases and increases the risk of identity theft.

“What are we talking about? Right now we’re talking about my name, my address, my date of birth. You are five numbers away from having your life turned upside down,” said Trecost.

Lane countered, “It’s no more greater risk than we are currently subject to at either the DMV or the Secretary of State’s Office or any banking institution, quite frankly.”

The ERIC project is spearheaded by The PEW Charitable Trusts, a non-profit, private organization that offers public policy research and potential policies to meet state needs.

According to Lane, only states participating in the ERIC project have access to the voter registration data collected. “It is owned and secured and regulated by the member states.”

So far, those states include Pennsylvania, Illinois, Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Louisiana, Minnesota, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon, Rhone Island, Utah, Virginia, Washington and the District of Columbia.

“Shared information, my friends. That means it’s getting passed. Nothing good can happen,” Trecost predicted.

But, with some counties across the state showing 100 percent voter registration participation or having more registered voters than actually live in a county, most lawmakers see the ERIC project as a way to clean up the voter rolls.

“Right now we don’t have any way to determine whether people who have moved are not actually voting in our state,” added Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer (D-Monongalia). “I think it’s a sensible thing.”
House members sent their changes to the bill back to the Senate for final approval.

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