Charleston, W.Va. - West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant, the state's chief elections officer, spoke Monday at a public hearing for House Bill 4387.
The bill would require a voter to "present to one of the poll clerks an identifying document issued either by the State of West Virginia or by the United States government which contains the name, address, and a photograph of the person desiring to vote, which the poll clerk shall inspect and confirm that the name thereon conforms to the name in the individual's voter registration record and that the image displayed is truly an image of the person presenting the document."
The bill provides an exemption for certain voters: persons who are residents of state licensed care facilities.
Secretary Tennant made the following comments:
"Thank you for this opportunity to speak before this committee today.
"As the State’s Chief Elections Officer, it is my duty to make sure there is the best possible access to the ballot. I take this duty to heart, not just as an elected official; I take it personally. There should not be any arbitrary or unrealistic barrier to our right to vote.
"Throughout our nation’s history, the right to vote has been fought for by non-landowners, minorities, women, young people fighting overseas, and other groups and individuals. The leaders of this great country and state felt it necessary to pass laws to ensure that the most vulnerable of citizens have the right to vote. In fact, seven of the 27 amendments to the United States constitution are major voting rights bills such as the Voting Rights Act of 1965. A whole article of the West Virginia Constitution deals with giving citizens that right. I as Secretary of State take the responsibility of ensuring that every citizen that has the right to vote, gets to vote.
"I do not tolerate any type of election law violation, and take the responsibility of ensuring that the overall political process in West Virginia is open and fair. My office has a track record of investigating and prosecuting those individuals trying to “game” the system through illegal means. However, after investigating more than 250 election complaints during my time as Secretary of State, I see that the average voter is not the one instigating these acts.
"The Brennan Center has analyzed the changes made in 14 states and showed how more than five million eligible voters attempting to cast ballots in 2012 will find it difficult or impossible. Proponents of this wave of voting "reforms" are citing voter fraud as the rationale but every study that has been done, even ones conducted by the advocates of reform, show no evidence to support this. In 2007, after a five year effort to review whether "voter fraud" was a problem, the U.S. Department of Justice found virtually no evidence and further stated that the few cases brought forward were found to be mistakes made in filling out forms or understanding vote eligibility rules - none of which would be deterred by voter ID legislation.
"Every election and every vote are important. Not for whom would be elected, but for what it represents: Our democracy, our freedom, and our ability to choose who we want to lead us.
"Our democracy is only as strong as our most vulnerable voter.
"Let’s strengthen those voters and we strengthen our democracy."
The full text of the bill can be read on the West Virginia State Legislature's website at http://www.legis.state.wv.us/.