By Derek Tyson
The Welch News Editor
WELCH, W.Va. – With early voting commencing yesterday, Secretary of State Mac Warner visited three counties to check in with County Clerks about the election process now underway.
“There are several things I want to check with Clerks and election staff throughout the counties,” said Warner. “Absentee ballots, the electronic portal, electronic voting, early voting, the whole election process.”
Warner said he had heard great reports of smooth operation throughout the day, as well as spotting voters coming out for early voting.
In previous elections, Russian interference in the election process was a top concern for the Secretary of State’s office and continues to be in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Russian meddling is still there but we’ve been training the Clerks about that sort of thing. They are aware of it and watching for it. Double factor authentication is being used and if they do something, they know where to report it,” said Warner. “We can’t stop what the Russians are doing, but we can be watching for it. We use the words Protect, Detect, Correct. We want to protect the system, detect something wrong and correct it after the fact. The whole issue is the speed in which you do it.”
Warner said West Virginia had yet to experience issues with election meddling, but he insisted that remaining vigilant as one weak link could jeopardize the election.
“That’s why every courthouse, every election precinct is a potential target,” said Warner. “But the bigger issue is COVID-19 and how people are responding to it. That’s why we set up the electronic portal that allows people to request an absentee ballot.”
According to Warner, 99% of the ballot requests that have come in have had their ballots sent out already.
“With 138,000 requests, 137,000 have gone out and 91,000 have already voted in West Virginia. Now with early voting starting, those numbers are going up every day. This election is underway and it’s time to decide how you’re going to vote,” said Warner. “If you want to vote absentee, get that request in, use the electronic portal. You can wait as late as October 28th, as State law allows, but you don’t have to wait that long. If you want to vote in person, you have between now and October 31st for early voting. If you’re a traditionalist and want to vote on Election Day, that will be on November 3rd.’
“All 1,708 precincts are going to be open around the State so if you’re used to voting at your school, church, those will be open and we’ve got plenty of poll workers to work at those locations. It’s just like the Primary Election, we had a flawless primary. No COVID-19 issues whatsoever and if people were their masks and social distance in the General Election, I think we’re going to have the same kind of results,” continued Warner.
West Virginia provides many options to vote, absentee ballots, early voting as well as Election Day, but counties are also beginning to see electronic votes come in from overseas voters, military and disabled individuals.
“It’s now up to the voters to exercise their constitutional right to vote. We have a great divide in the United States, great interest in the election. There are real things at stake, we saw what happened here in Southern West Virginia with regards to the War on Coal and the attack of fossil fuels. So now’s a chance for people to express yourself, to pick the leaders that will take us into the future and get the economy back up and address COVID-19 concerns,” said Warner.
“West Virginia is leading the nation in some of these regards. I was asked to testify in front of Congress about how we had such a successful Primary so other states could learn from our best practices. We have done that and the tribute goes to Clerks who have held the training. They’ve trained the poll workers who are enforcing CDC guidelines, making sure people are social distancing and wearing masks. The voters themselves deserve credit as well for bringing their masks. It’s an all around effort. West Virginia should be proud of what it’s doing during this election,” continued Warner.
The Secretary of State also took time to mention election fraud and how concerned citizens can help with identifying it.
“If anyone sees any fraud, voter suppression, or intimidation, report it to us. We have more investigators than we’ve ever had in the State. That number is 877-FRAUDWV so report it and we’ll get an investigator on it,” said Warner.
For any election related questions, voters can also visit: govotewv.com or call the County Clerk’s Office.