Charleston, W.Va. – An extremely successful legislative session shows that West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant’s Office continues to clean up the election process and remain tough on election fraud. Out of 17 bills that were supported by the Secretary of State’s Office, 15 now await Governor Tomblin’s signature to become law.
Two bills that passed are game-changers in the integrity of the election process and how election law violations are investigated, Secretary Tennant said.
Senate Bill 535 relates to voter registration lists and how they are maintained.
This bill gives county clerks better access to information from the Vital Registration Office and from other states, and ultimately means they will be able to better maintain accurate voter registration rolls. It provides more tools for counties to use to remove from the rolls the people who have moved out of the county or who have passed away.
“I have been an advocate of this for years, and this is a proactive way for us to address the problem of outdated voter registration lists head on,” Secretary Tennant said. “I am disappointed that there are those who would vote against this measure. It shows they are not serious about maintaining the high integrity of elections and want to make baseless allegations of voter impersonation. Senate Bill 535 does more for the integrity of the election process than any Photo ID legislation could. They wanted to focus on Photo ID laws that wouldn’t have done anything but make it more difficult for already registered voters and instead they missed an opportunity here to truly be a part of the solution to outdated voter registration lists.”
The bill passed the House of Delegates Friday on a 79-20-1 vote. All 20 nay votes were cast by Republicans. It passed 33-0-1 in the State Senate.
Secretary Tennant said her office has been assisting several counties in making sure their rolls accurately reflect the number of registered voters, and this is the next step to maintaining confidence in the election process.
House Bill 3139 authorizes qualified investigators employed by the Secretary of State’s Office to carry a concealed firearm.
“We saw how dangerous conducting election law violation investigations can be in 2012, when one of our investigators was threatened at gunpoint in Lincoln County. The people who are employed by the Secretary of State’s Office as investigators are all thoroughly trained law enforcement officers, and in some cases former FBI and ATF agents who are licensed to carry firearms.”
On February 28, 2012 an investigator with the Secretary of State’s Office and an FBI agent were looking into the absentee voting scheme in Lincoln County when a man approached for questioning threatened them at gunpoint. Neither the Secretary of State’s Office investigator or FBI agent were hurt. The man, James Metheny, was later sentenced to one year and one day on one count of assaulting a federal officer, and seven years on one count of use of a deadly weapon during and in relation to a crime of violence. Matheny was also sentenced to three years of supervised release. Three other Lincoln County elected officials were also sentenced to federal prison terms for their role in the scheme.
Both bills await Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s signature to become law.