Charleston, W.Va. – A non-partisan voting rights protection coalition built by Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant is dedicated to making sure there are not unrealistic barriers placed on certain portions of the population with the goal of suppressing voter turnout.
“There are those in our legislature who want to disguise voter suppression as voter ID laws,” Secretary Tennant said. “These laws would place unfair barriers on certain portions of the population that would make it much more difficult, if not impossible, for an otherwise legally registered voter to cast their ballot. This coalition of citizens from organizations around the state will not sit on the sidelines and let this happen. These laws that require people to devote money and time to obtaining one of these acceptable forms of voter identification will do only one thing and that’s keep people away from the polls.”
Secretary Tennant pointed out that certain forms of the Republican voter suppression legislation requires those without ID to sign an affidavit and vote a provisional ballot. That signature would then be compared to the signature on record with the county clerk before the ballot is counted.
“The signature requirement is exactly what we do in our polling places now,” Secretary Tennant said. “Making election officials fill out more paperwork at the polling place will mean longer lines at the polling place. And if the Board of Canvassers decides that all ballots cast by those without an acceptable ID don’t count, that could mean that ballots cast by otherwise legally registered voters would be tossed out.”
Secretary Tennant said passing voter suppression laws, like requiring an already legally registered voter to produce photo identification, would not have stopped election law violations similar to the absentee voting scheme in Lincoln County in 2010. In that case, after an 18 month investigation by the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office, three elected officials were brought to justice and are currently serving federal prison sentences.
“This local effort is seems to be the result of what national Republican groups are pushing, where they are looking for solutions where there are not problems,” Secretary Tennant said. “I agree with every proud West Virginian who takes election integrity seriously. Staff members of this office and I work to make sure everyone plays by the rules and follows the law. We realize there are people who would try to manipulate the system for their own personal gain. But I have shown through my record of going after those people, I will not tolerate election law violations. We have more investigations and more convictions that any other secretary of state. If you try to chip away at our democracy, we will investigate you, we will come after you and we will bring you to justice.”
Secretary Tennant said there are already requirements for a voter to provide identification at their polling place. If it is a citizen’s first time voting after they registered by mail to vote, they must produce a document that shows their name and current residence address. That document could be a driver’s license, paycheck, or utility bill.