Warner discusses elections, voting
West Virginia Secretary of State speaks to Girls State
ELKINS — With their own American Legion Auxiliary West Virginia Rhododendron Girls State elections on the horizon, West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner spoke to the group Tuesday about the importance of elections and voting.
Warner told the group of roughly 300 high school students, who have converged on the campus of Davis & Elkins College this week, he was honored to speak to them heading into their election as he is the chief election officer for the state.
“I am going to talk about my role as secretary of state and how it interacts with the role you all play and what you are doing here today. I think the thing you are getting ready to head into best describes it. You are getting ready to head into your primary elections,” he said. “As the chief election officer for the state, elections is one of the things people think of the most when they think of the secretary of state.”
He explained a Jennings Randolph School is a school that achieves 100 percent voter registration of students eligible to vote. He added only roughly 30 schools of 220 in the state achieved that honor this year.
Warner also told Girls State participants about local resident and former D&E College student Ella Mae Thompson-Haddix.
“A little piece of history, Ella Mae Thompson-Haddix, she was the first person in the United States of America to register to vote as an 18-year-old. We have been talking about it for a year or so because we try to get everybody engaged in the political process, starting with registration,” he said. “Some of you have already been honorary secretaries of state. If you can get your high school to register 100 percent of your class — 100 percent that is eligible to vote — then you become a Jennings Randolph School. We’ve given out about 30 of those this year. Out of 220-some schools, only 30 were able to achieve that record of 100 percent participation of those eligible to vote.
“It is named the Jennings Randolph Award because Jennings Randolph, who was from this area of the state, was a U.S. Senator for the state of West Virginia. He started off as a congressmen in 1942…,” he continued.
He said he feels the connection to wartime was important when Randolph first started introducing this legislation in 1942 — something he did 11 times before it was finally passed nearly 30 years later.
“In 1942 — you will see the connection of wartime as I talk about this because sometimes it takes a dramatic event to capture people’s attention, to get people to move, to act, to make a change in society, so in 1942 World War II is going on and Jennings Randolph is a congressmen of West Virginia when he introduced legislation that said ‘I want 18-year-olds to be able to vote because if they are old enough to go off to war and fight Nazi Germany, they should be old enough to vote. …'” Warner said. “We brought home roughly 58,000 people in body bags, many of whom never got a chance to vote because they weren’t old enough. They were going off to war at 18-, 19-, 20-years-old and voting age was 21.”
Warner emphasized that Randolph introducing the legislation nearly a dozen times shows you should never give up fighting for something you believe in.
“There is a time to stay persistent for 29 years like Jennings Randolph did to get 18-year-olds the right to vote,” Warner said. “Don’t give up just because you get stopped the first time, the second time, or 11 times like Jennings Randolph did trying to get 18-year-olds the right to vote.”
Warner is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point as well as West Virginia University College of Law. He also holds master’s of law degrees from the Army Judge Advocate General’s School and the University of Virginia Law School.
He spent 23 years in the United States Military where he rose to the rank of Lt. Col. He was elected as the West Virginia Secretary of State in November 2016.
The 76th Girls State session began Sunday evening on the campus of Davis & Elkins College. Each day this week, the Girls State participants will hear from some of West Virginia’s top government officials.
West Virginia Treasurer John Purdue addressed the group Monday and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is scheduled to speak today. Sen. Joe Manchin is also planning to participate during the week. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito spoke Sunday evening.
In accordance with Girls State’s emphasis on veterans, several activities are planned to pay tribute to those who have served our country and to educate the citizens about the role of American Legion Auxiliary members. Former POW and Iraq War veteran Jessica Lynch will be honored in a special ceremony at the week’s conclusion.