Charleston, W.Va. – West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant announced today bills that make it easier for military members and their families to register to vote and that assist victims of domestic violence in casting an absentee ballot have passed the State Legislature.
House Bill 4257 would allow soldiers returning from deployment to register to vote in the 20 days before an election. However, there is no requirement in the bill for “same day” voter registration.
Tennant’s office supported the bill as part of their continuing push to assist military members and their families exercise their right to vote. Voters who are covered under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) of 1986 would be eligible for the late voter registration.
“This legislation extends the voter registration deadline for the men and women who were overseas defending our right to vote,” Secretary Tennant said. “We should do everything we can to make sure these military members and their families have the opportunity to vote. It’s something I believe in and I am happy that the state legislature joined me in extending this deadline and making the voting process more inclusive for the members of our military.”
Under normal circumstances, a voter has until 21 days before an election to register to vote.
Tennant said the number of voters who would be eligible for this option is small, but they represent a very important segment of our population – men and women of the armed services and their families.
Across the country, 36 states now offer late registration options for these voters. In addition to enlisted personnel, this bill would allow late registration for the spouse or dependent that has been stationed away from home due to the active military service of their family member.
House Bill 4238 makes absentee voting more secure for participants of the Address Confidentiality Program. The Address Confidentiality Program helps protect victims of domestic violence by providing a secure mailing address. Program participants use that secure mailing address, and provide the Secretary of State’s Office with their actual mailing address. When mail for the program participants is received it is forwarded.
“This legislation helps victims of domestic violence restore normalcy in their lives,” Secretary Tennant said. “Casting a ballot may be a right that some people take for granted but to a victim of domestic violence, who may be trying to take back control of their life, it is very important. This will allow them to participate in our democracy while at the same time providing the knowledge that they are still safe from the person or persons who abused them.”
The legislation provides for a special list of absentee voters. ACP participants may apply to be placed on a special list of absentee voters, and in the weeks before the election an absentee ballot will be sent to them.