Legislation to require voters to present identification, House Bill 4013, has passed the House of Delegates and is now pending in the Senate.
West Virginia’s County Clerks, the chief election officials in our counties, are charged with all the behind-the-scenes work for elections, as well as smooth operations during early voting and on Election Day.
Months of work and many statutory duties go into preparations for elections. County clerks want to see great voter turnout. It’s what they work to achieve, but regardless of the turnout, the same amount of time and attention to detail is required for every election.
County clerks are not only concerned about the integrity of the election process, they are charged with the responsibility for it. They are the last people who would want to see any type of voter fraud. With excellent election laws and diligence in enforcing them, West Virginia’s county clerks have helped achieve and maintain a voting process in which people can have trust.
If county clerks saw that voter misrepresentation was a problem, they would be the first to bring forth a solution. In fact, people are not coming to precincts and stating that they are someone else. To do so is to commit a felony.
Most of West Virginia’s poll workers have worked elections for years. They know the voters in their precincts, or someone else there does. It would be highly unlikely for any person to announce that they are someone they are not without being questioned. Poll workers check signatures and if they have any uncertainty, they can ask for identification.
County clerks certainly want to prevent and eliminate voter fraud, but voter misrepresentation is not a problem in West Virginia. The bigger problem is voter turnout, or lack thereof.
West Virginia had an abysmal 37 percent turnout in the 2014 general election, which was the lowest ever in the state’s recorded history and was the lowest in the nation. Anything that discourages or makes it more difficult for people to vote is not what our election process needs.
If a registered voter comes to the polls without proper identification and is told that, without identification, he or she must vote a provisional ballot, they are very likely to leave and not vote. If time is taken to look for authorized identification or fill out an affidavit, the line is held up and voters might leave, especially in a busy presidential election year. When there are more provisional ballots, the canvass takes longer and becomes more subjective. Results of elections are delayed.
The process we have now works. We are not seeing voters pretend to be someone else and risking a felony conviction for one vote. We want to do everything we can to encourage registered voters to cast their vote, not turn them away. Our experienced and trained poll workers will help us protect the integrity of the process.
We think the requirement of voter identification may be a solution looking for a problem.
(Editor’s Note: Cromley stresses Mason County has never had an issue with any voter attempting to impersonate another voter.)
— Submitted by Mason County Clerk Diana Cromley on behalf of the West Virginia County Clerk’s Association