Editorials, Opinion

Never too early to register to vote

Yesterday was National Voter Registration Day, and even though we’re still several months out from any election, it’s as good a time as any to check your voter status or register to vote. You find just about everything you need at GoVoteWV.com.

Nearly two dozen states (now including Pennsylvania) have automatic voter registration (AVR), which has been shown to increase both voter registration numbers and voter participation. Eligible residents are “opted-in” to be registered to vote when they get their driver’s license or other state ID or when they sign up for government/public services, using data already available to the government (citizen status, 18 or older, no felonies, etc.).

There are two types of AVR: front-end opt out, where the person is shown a screen and asked if they would like to register to vote; and back-end opt out, where the person is registered at time of service and receives a notification that the voter registration will go through unless they take additional action to opt out. West Virginia has “front-end opt out” AVR at the Division of Motor Vehicles. When you go to get your driver’s license (or renew it), you are automatically asked if you would like to register to vote. You can choose to opt in or opt out at that point.

Even if you don’t have your license or can’t get to the DMV, it’s not difficult to get your registration done at the same time you’re running another errand. If you’re out and about, you can register in-person at the county clerk’s office, the Secretary of State’s Office, public assistance offices, agencies who serve people with disabilities, marriage license offices and military recruiting agencies.

You can also register to vote online at https://ovr.sos.wv.gov/Register/Landing. If you prefer a physical form to mail in, you can find that on this page as well.

If you’re going to register to vote, you must have the following information ready: your name as it appears on your West Virginia driver’s license or ID card, date of birth, West Virginia driver’s license or ID card number and the last four digits of your Social Security Number.

If you’re already registered to vote, that’s great! But it never hurts to check that your registration is still active.

An “inactive” voter still has the same ability to cast a ballot as an active voter, but they’ll have to confirm their address when they arrive at the polls. It’s important to note that an “inactive” voter can have their registration canceled if they haven’t responded to confirmation requests and haven’t voted in two federal general elections.

If the status is listed as “canceled,” then that means the person is no longer registered to vote and will have to re-register. (Special note: There is a process for convicted felons who have served their time to re-register to vote. Go the FAQs at GoVoteWV.com for more info.)

To check your registration status, go to https://apps.sos.wv.gov/Elections/Voter/FindMyPollingPlace. (Yes, that says polling place. Once you’ve put in your information, you will be able to see your status, party affiliation and, yes, your polling location.)

All voter registrations must be finished 21 days before an election in order for you to participate. So if you’re planning to participate in the May primaries, you’ll need to start the process or check your status in March. Or, you can do it right now and you’ll be ready to go!