Elections, West Virginia Legislature

Senate Judiciary approves three voting-related bills

MORGANTOWN – The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday advanced three voting-related bills to the full Senate.

Two deal with purging inactive voters or voters who’ve moved away from the voter rolls.

SB 622 trims the time period for removing inactive voters from eight years to six years.

As explained by committee counsel and by Deak Kersey, secretary of state’s general counsel, when a voter is inactive for four years, which would include not voting and not renewing a driver’s license among other things, the county clerk must send out a confirmation notice to the voter.

If the card isn’t returned the person goes on inactive status, and after two more federal election cycles of inactivity – another four years – the clerk would then purge that voter from the rolls.

The bill would shorten the period the clerk has to wait to send out the confirmation notice to two years. This bill and the other two would all take effect Jan. 1, 2025 – after the current election – if passed into law.

Kersey said this bill aligns with an Ohio law upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. And his office supports it. “We welcome the opportunity.”

Putnam County Clerk Brian Wood, speaking for the County Clerks Association, said the group also favors the bill. “I believe it starts the conversation with the voter earlier.” Purging the rolls sooner saves the clerks offices money for such things as printing unnecessary ballots. And having more voters on the rolls than actual voters is not good for public confidence.

The voice vote was unanimous.

SB 624 also deals with purging the rolls and would come into play when the state is up and running with the State-to-State information sharing program.

Under the program, when a West Virginia voter acquires a driver’s license in a participating state, that information would be transmitted to West Virginia, allowing purging of the voter from the rolls without the confirmation process.

Fayette County Clerk Michelle Holly, speaking for the clerks association, said, “I think this is a good thing. I think most clerks think this is a good thing.”

The voice vote was again unanimous.

SB 623 requires the Division of Motor Vehicles to send images from a resident’s driver’s license or photo ID to the secretary of state for voter identification purposes.

Kersey told the senators that the DMV already sends images of voter signatures to the office, which are sent out to the county clerks. This will give an extra layer of security and can make the pollworkers’ jobs easier by giving them an extra form of identification when a signature might be unclear or not match the voter’s signature that day.

Holly said the clerks association supports it. “It will give us another point of reference.”

Signatures drawn on the DMV computer pads frequently don’t resemble signatures on paper, she said, and signatures also change over time.

Sen. Mike Caputo, D-Marion, asked Kersey if the bill might discourage voters, when they find out their pictures will be transmitted to the state and sent out to the clerks.

Kersey said it’s not a concern. Their chief issue is making sure the technology works smoothly.

Caputo offered the only audible no in the voice vote.

Email: dbeard@dominionpost.com