Ensuring Elections Are Safe and Efficient
By Mac Warner
West Virginia Secretary of State
“Follow the science” refers to following facts, not hyperbole and hysteria. It is taking West Virginia elections from good to great.
Health and safety, absentee ballot applications, and timely results reporting became major focus areas during the primary election.
As for health and safety, West Virginia had the safest primary in the nation. We had zero reported cases of COVID-19 as clerks, poll workers, and voters did a wonderful job following CDC guidelines, wearing protective gear, and practicing social distancing.
To absentee applications, West Virginia permitted everyone with COVID-19 concerns to vote absentee, and nearly half of all votes cast were by absentee. Our paper applications worked well, but clerks identified substantial issues and asked to improve the process for the general election. Clerks cited increased workload, illegible handwriting, applications that omitted key information, and they asked to expedite the process.
With courthouses shut down during the primary, clerks had access to employees from nearby sheriff, assessor, and circuit court offices. But now, with courthouses reopened, those auxiliary staff will not be available in November.
To address these concerns, we initiated an electronic Absentee Ballot Application Portal at GoVoteWV.com. This portal is in addition to the paper absentee application process still available by requesting one from the county clerk or printing one at GoVoteWV.com and mailing, emailing or faxing it back.
The portal features no postage, no printing, no waiting, no wondering, and no lost applications. It eliminates legibility issues, ensures voters enter the correct information, and it significantly reduces the workload on the clerks via automation, giving them time to focus on ensuring safe and secure voting experiences for every voter, whether in-person or absentee. Even if courthouses shut down, our continuity of operations will endure with our online process.
Since the portal opened, an average of 2,000 people per day have successfully applied for an absentee ballot online, representing two-thirds of all absentee ballot requests.
Almost overlooked in the current discussions is the fact election night reporting for the primary was very similar to what it has always been; most election results were made available early election evening. Only a handful of races statewide that were extremely close had to wait for the absentee ballots to arrive by mail for the results to be published. Our Election Night Reporting system works well.
There is ample time before the 2020 general election to plan how you will vote, and I encourage voters to act sooner rather than later. You may request an absentee ballot online right now, and ballots will start going in the mail on Sept. 18. The voter registration deadline is Oct. 13, and the deadline to request an absentee ballot is Oct. 28.
Early Voting is Oct. 21-31, and Election Day is Nov. 3, 2020.
Let’s follow the science and listen to our county clerks. Technology improves our lives every day, and clerks know how to use state of the art upgrades to make elections better. Technology will take West Virginia elections from good to great.
As secretary of state, Warner is West Virginia’s chief election officer, in addition to his office’s other duties.