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Improving W.Va. Secretary of State’s Office

There is a very important election in just six weeks — one that will change the course of our country and our state.

In the last six months I’ve visited every West Virginia county, most more than once. Virtually every county clerk has told me we need to be more efficient and effective with our election and business practices. The Secretary of State’s office needs to listen to local concerns, and there needs to be a more cooperative tone set between state government and our counties.

A strong democracy leads to a strong and prosperous economy and state.

Here are some changes that are needed in the Secretary of State’s office:

– It should be easy to vote and hard to cheat. People participate in government when they know their vote matters and is equal to others. Participation will increase when confidence in elections improves, when people can register and vote easily, and when they see safeguards to fight fraud.

– Working with, listening to, and training county clerks is vital to improving the process.

– We need to put the power back in the hands of our candidates — and not just incumbents. Candidates deserve to run their campaigns and voters deserve to see who is funding them.

– We should raise contribution limits to individual candidates to balance the current trend of “dark money” and super PACs. We need to dissuade outside groups from spending secret money and lift the hood on who’s giving what. Small contribution limits favor incumbents with name recognition; our state laws should mimic federal laws.

Earlier this summer a WVU economist said six West Virginia counties are in a Great Depression because of job loss, mostly due to a decline in coal and people moving out of the state.

We can start with the basics in the Secretary of State’s office.

– We need to improve the process to register new businesses in West Virginia and encourage outside investment. We must cut red tape and make it easier, not harder, to start a small business and employ our people.

– We can achieve this by having quality trained people in the Secretary of State’s office who are available to our communities, and who develop user-friendly processes. We should partner with private business initiatives and hold office hours across the state — this should be a ground-up process, not top-down.

– The Secretary of State’s website needs to be improved so you can get basic questions answered without trouble — things like adding a searchable FAQ page, using common search phrases, allowing for more flexibility during searches, and eliminating the need for wild card character search functions.

– We need to expand the hours the online services can be accessed.

Moreover, we can accomplish this without using the office for shameless self-promotion or politics. It is the people’s office, not that of the particular office holder at any given time.

Natalie Tennant has been on the job for eight years and like many politicians, she’s out of touch. She has made a number of mistakes that have cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. She’s been admonished by the state Supreme Court for a decision to keep a Republican off the ballot and just recently — weeks before this upcoming election — she was dragged into federal court because she gave unsound advice to candidates.

She also continues to be Hillary Clinton’s biggest cheerleader in a state that has been punished by the Clintons for far too long. Democrat leadership who support Hillary Clinton continue to put government ahead of the people, and its time we take it back.

There’s too much at stake in the Secretary of State’s office — the place where protecting our democracy and helping candidates and businesses operate collide. In my opinion, those two go hand in hand and are the beginning of prosperity for our state.

I’m a conservative who wants change — change based on proven principles, on West Virginia values, and focused on the future.

It’s time for a change in the Secretary of State’s office.

Guest columnist Warner is a Morgantown businessman, a West Point graduate and a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel. He is a candidate for West Virginia secretary of state.

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