Elections don’t happen every year, but the work that makes them safe takes place every day.
Nothing is left to chance, according to West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant.
As Secretary of State, Tennant is the state’s chief elections officer, working with county clerks to conduct safe, fair and secure elections every two years.
“It’s just not credible to say that a state election is rigged. I mean, just think of all the counties, towns and people across this country that are working these elections. Are you really going to tell me that officials in Berkeley County are somehow in cahoots with Greenbrier County officials?” she said.
Republican nominee for president Donald Trump has repeatedly stirred controversy buy suggesting the 2016 election will be rigged against him.
“That’s just not the way it works,” Tennant, a Democrat, told us. “We have too many safeguards, plus we have about 9,000 people – from county clerks and staff to poll workers – officially involved in the election process on Election Day. And people are definitely watching.”
Reviewing Trunp’s comments on voter fraud, Politifact reported:
While the U.S. Government Accountability Office has acknowledged that it’s difficult to estimate how often voter fraud happens based on reported incidents, the evidence for rampant fraud is lacking.
News 21 found just 150 alleged cases of double voting, 56 cases of noncitizens voting, and 10 cases of voter impersonation across all elections from 2000 to 2011. Many of these never led to charges, while others were acquitted or dismissed. Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School and an expert on voter fraud, found an even smaller number: 31 credible incidents out of more than 1 billion votes cast from 2000 to 2014.
In West Virginia, protections are built into the system right from the start.
Identification is verified when an individual registers as well as each time they vote. Voting systems are also secure; they are not connected to the internet and can’t be hacked, Tennant said.
Her office and county clerk staffers in each county continually work to clean up the voter registration rolls.
“Even when someone goes to vote in the approximately 30 counties that use touch-screen systems there is still a paper record too. You see it on the screen, but you also see it on a piece of paper which is how it is verified and audited after the election,” she said.
Election Day liaisons also visit various precincts unannounced to help shine light on the process.
State officials across the country are now sharing digital partnerships to provide greater scrutiny and security to the voting process, she said.
“We have joined the Electronic Registration Information Center and that matches our statewide voter registration system with others, including Ohio and Pennsylvania.
So if someone has the same name and information in say two different states, both state are contacted. And that further helps with cleaning up the rolls which is an ongoing and complex process,” she said.
Others have noticed what’s happening in West Virginia.
West Virginia has climbed 19 spots in the Pew Charitable Trust Fund’s Election Performance Index evaluates all 50 states and the District of Columbia every two years. It looks at things like efficiency of voter registration, turnout and absentee ballots.
“We have grown this much since 2008 when the state was ranked 48th in the country to being No. 26 in 2014. And that’s exactly what we do in the Secretary of State’s office and why it matters so much to voters,” she said.
Improvements are welcomed, and yield results.
“Basically we are modernizing elections. Imagine that,” she said.
For example, voter registration increased when people could register online and “that really shot up our numbers.”
Efforts are also continuing to improve services provided to voters with disabilities.
The last day to register to vote in West Virginia is October 18.