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Secretary of State launches new campaign to educate public about new voter ID law

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Members of the Secretary of State’s Office are getting out to inform county clerks, poll workers and West Virginia voters about the new voter identification law that is set to take effect Jan. 1, 2018.

Secretary Mac Warner launched a new campaign Thursday during press conference at the state Capitol that is meant to educate voters about what forms of identification he or she should bring to the polls.

The “Be Registered & Be Ready to Vote” campaign addresses frequently asked questions about the new law that passed the state Legislature in 2016. It was signed by former Governor Earl Ray Tomblin.

At the start of the new year, voters in West Virginia must show a form of identification to vote in person during the early voting period or on Election Day in any election. A photo ID is not required.

These are the acceptable forms of non-photo identification:

  • Voter registration card
  • Medicare card or Social Security card
  • Birth certificate
  • WV hunting or fishing license
  • WV SNAP ID card
  • WV TANF program ID card
  • WV Medicaid ID card
  • Bank or debit card
  • Utility bill or bank statement issued within six months of the date of the election
  • Health insurance card issued to the voter

Here are the acceptable forms of a photo identification:

  • WV driver’s license or other WV ID card issued by the DMV
  • Driver’s license issued by another state
  • U.S. passport or passport card
  • Military ID card issued by the U.S.
  • U.S. or WV Government employee ID card
  • Student ID card
  • A concealed carry (pistol/revolver) permit

Donald Kersey, elections director and deputy legal counsel for the Secretary of State’s Office, said most West Virginians have a form of ID they can bring with them.

“You most likely already have one like a bank card or a debit card. If you’re registered to vote, you have a voter registration card, so at the very least you’ve already received a voter registration card,” Kersey said.

If a person forgets to bring a form of ID to the polls, Kersey said they can still vote if they know an adult who can sign an afidavit for them.

“As long as you bring an adult (18 years and older) who has known you for six months, they can come with you and sign an afidavit that says he or she is who he or she says they are,” he said.

The law is less strict compared to other states, Kersey said, but it does add another level of security during elections in the Mountain State.

“It’s the most laxed that I’ve seen because not only does it include pretty much every form of official documents you can get including a debit card and a utlity bill, it doesn’t require a photo. It also has acceptions for people who don’t have those when they show up to vote,” he said.

Stakeholders had initial concerns about the new law saying it would impact voter turnout.

Julie Archer, project manager with the West Virginia Citizen Action Group, said the new requirements may confuse people.

“We still have a concern that folks are going to say oh well, West Virginia now have voter ID and they’re not going to be aware of all of the neaunces and all of the various forms of ID that will be accepted,” Archer told reporters.

She said people need to know what forms of ID they can bring to the polls.

“The key is going to be getting the word out there to folks that this isn’t as strict as people might think and more than likely they will have an acceptable form of ID,” Archer said.

The new law adds another level of security for elections, Kersey said.

“We’re in a day in age where cyber security is at a peak and voter integrity and election integrity are very scrutinized, so in light of all of the eye balls and the elections systems, several of our legislators found it important that they implement some form of varification process at the polls,” he said.

The SOS Office will distribute nearly 40,000 cards that outline acceptable forms of ID.

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