County clerks help clean up voting lists

BUCKHANNON — As a result of a statewide effort from the 55 county clerks, voter file clean-up in West Virginia has hit 100,000 names after 18 months.

Secretary of State Mac Warner says more than 100,000 deceased, duplicate, outdated and convicted felon voter registrations have been removed from county voter files since Warner took office last year.

“My office has a sincere appreciation for what county clerks do, and we know that county clerks are focused on free and fair elections,” Warner said in a recent press release. “Most importantly, they know that election security starts with a valid, updated and accurate voter registration list.”

Warner reports that, as a result of the clean-up effort, Randolph County had 795 names removed from the county’s registered voters list, with the amount of registered voters being 18,043 as of Aug. 20.

Warner reports that Upshur County had 1,699 names removed since he took office, with 13,311 registered voters as of Aug. 20.

Across West Virginia as a whole, Warner reports that the number of canceled voters is 101,475 with the amount of names removed being 1,234,193 as of Aug. 20.

For Upshur County’s county clerk Carol Smith, removing ineligible voters from the voter registration rolls is a necessary process in keeping elections free from voter fraud.

“Removing deceased, incarcerated and inactive voters promotes integrity in the electoral process,” she said. “Another important aspect is keeping names and address updated to deter voter confusion and frustration on Election Day.”

Keeping files clean is just one of the duties of working in a county clerk office, Smith added.

“We update and have always updated our voter registration records pursuant to death certificates, people who voluntarily come in and cancel their registration or move to other counties,” she said. “So, all of the clean up is not because of (Warner’s) efforts, it’s just because that’s your normal business duties.”

Smith went on to say that county clerk offices routinely compare death records against the voter rolls, identifying voters with no activity and every two years compares the voter rolls with the United States Postal Service in an effort to keep voter rolls clean and up to date.

“However, I feel that Secretary Warner has provided the clerks a ‘larger tool box’ to help us keep our records clean and up to date,” she said. “Our voter rolls are now compared on a regular basis with the Social Security Administration, DMV, voter rolls of other states and the Department of Corrections.”

Smith continued, “This has provided us with an opportunity that we have not had in the past to identify voters that are registered or died in another state. I see this as working together to provide accurate voter rolls and promote voter integrity.”

By updating voter files, Warner says clean lists reduce opportunities for fraud, lower waiting times at polls, reduce campaign costs for candidates and save money because fewer ballots need to be printed. Clean voter files will also provide for more accurate turn-out figures during elections.

Smith agreed with Warner, saying, “Clean voter files do provide for a more accurate turn-out figure.”

“The turn-out percentage is based upon the number of people registered divided by the number of people that voted in the election,” she continued. “Therefore, it stands to reason that if you have 100 people registered and 50 people vote you would have a 50 percent turnout. If 25 of those 100 registered voters were ineligible, you would then have 75 registered and with 50 voting your turnout would be 67 percent, which does increase and more accurately reflect the percentage of voter participation.”