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Mac Warner visits Trinity High to discuss importance of voting

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — In the spirit of democracy, West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner spoke Wednesday to a Trinity High School class about topics within government and the importance of voting.

Warner is traveling to West Virginia schools this month to hand out voter registration forms and talk with students about living in the digital age and how it relates to the ways voters can be influenced.

National Voter Registration Month was established by the National Association of Secretaries of State in 2002 and is observed each September. Warner also said this year marks 100 years of women’s suffrage. Trinity is a Jennings Randolph Award-winning school.

Last school year, 100 percent of its eligible class was registered to vote. Warner also talked about the history of things like hacking, malware and ransomware, as well as the job of the Secretary of State. He told the kids to be wary of misinformation and disinformation on social media and to “think before you link” when clicking on links on the web.

“It’s important for them to know because they are on the front lines. They are the demographic that the Russians are targeting the most because they are the most active on social media,” he said.

A hot topic in news and in government, Warner explained it was not that Russia changed people’s votes but rather their minds about how they feel about voting.

“If they are aware that this is happening and why the Russians are doing it, then they are more likely to not click on that bad link and not pass on bad information,” he said.

Warner said the government is in the best position to understand what Russians are doing. He said the Department of Homeland Security works closely with government offices to stop bad information from hitting the mass airwaves.

“The best way to defend us is to educate the populous that this is what the Russians are up to,” he said.

Warner said ransomware attacks are common nowadays, using examples like Atlanta and even Clarksburg that fell victim to ransomware attacks. He said it’s important to be mindful and backup systems and use security protocols.

As someone who works in government, Warner wants people to be confident in their votes and realize votes aren’t being changed.

“What I don’t want is I don’t want people staying at home and not engaging in the process. I want people engaged in the election process and it’s my job to ensure that the elections are secure,” he said.

Warner said this generation of high-schoolers were raised using social media, and they offer up perspective that he may not have insight to.

“They’re going to bring those perspectives into civil society and that’s what we want. We want them engaged at the early age because they’re more likely to stay engaged throughout their lifetime,” he said.