Clerks are chief elections officials

I want to begin by thanking media outlets throughout the state who have published or reported on “Project Election Protection.” Without your help, this important and educational eight-week series of op-eds focused on legal and ethical activities by candidates, their supporters and voters would not reach nearly as many citizens. You have the awesome power and ability to distribute information to the whole state in a matter of seconds. So again, thank you for your partnership and support of this project.

It is my belief that compliance with the law is far better than convictions. Although the Secretary of State’s Office has an obligation to investigate alleged election law violations and refer likely violations to a prosecutor, I also believe I have the duty of educating the public on what is–and what is not–permitted during elections and campaigns. In that effort, I am proud to stand with each of our 55 county clerks.

Our county clerks lead the front-line efforts to provide secure and fair elections. Beyond the substantial duties and tasks undertaken by clerks during an election cycle, they are responsible throughout the year for voter registration, local campaign finance law compliance and maintaining an accurate and updated list of registered voters in their counties.

Over the last 20 months, clerks have authorized the cancellation of 104,134 voter registrations of outdated, duplicate, deceased or convicted felon voters. During that same 20-month period, our county clerks have registered 81,618 new voters, of which 24,357 are high school students who can vote in their very first General Election this November. Considering that as of Oct. 1 we have 1,235,181 registered voters in West Virginia, those are incredible numbers.

During an election cycle, our county clerks have immense responsibilities. Clerks register candidates, proof ballots, program and test voting equipment, attend trainings for election night reporting and electronic ballot delivery and accept campaign finance reports for local elections. They are also responsible for hiring poll workers, training poll workers, securing polling place locations, managing early voting and election day, planning for contingencies and designing accurate election counting and validating procedures within the confines of the law to ensure the integrity of the election processes and results.

For the upcoming November 6th General Election, there will be 1,759 precincts statewide. It will take nearly 9,000 poll workers on election day to complete a statewide election. On average, that’s over 160 employees for each clerk to manage! Our poll workers are some of the most loyal in the country, but almost every county can use more. Poll workers are paid up to $125 to attend poll worker training and an additional sum up to $175 (pay differs in each county) to work election day. If you are interested in becoming a poll worker or alternate for the upcoming election, please contact your county clerk.

In addition to elections, county clerks have many other duties as well. In fact, citizens are in regular contact with their county clerk throughout their lives for several different important public services. Specifically, county clerks keep, issue and/or provide birth certificates, death certificates, marriage certificates, property deeds, leases and mineral rights. And all while ensuring West Virginians’ private information is kept secure and confidential.

I am truly honored to have the opportunity to work with these dedicated public servants and their team of knowledgeable staff members. I’ve learned a great deal from them. They really are the local heroes.

I would like to remind those who are not registered to vote that Oct. 16 is the last day to register if you want to participate in the November General Election. You can go to your county clerk’s office and fill out an application in person, print a mail-in voter registration form at https://sos.wv.gov, or register online at www.GoVoteWV.com.

Warner serves as the West Virginia Secretary of State.