by Mac Warner, WV Secretary of State
Election integrity remains one of America’s primary concerns, and West Virginia has made bold moves to secure its elections. Not only have we now topped 400,000 names being removed from our voter registration lists since the 2016 general election, but we are transitioning towards a more effective 50-state uniform list maintenance solution.
When I entered office, county clerks told me of bloated voter rolls and their desire to “clean things up.” Litigious groups had four West Virginia counties on their target list to sue because the counties had more registered voters than people eligible to vote. Working closely with West Virginia’s 55 county clerks, we began cleaning the rolls. We have now removed over 400,000 abandoned or ineligible voter registrations, including names of deceased individuals, people who had moved, duplicate registrations, and convicted felons.
A very effective data source to identify abandoned registrations has been the United States Postal Service’s National Change of Address (NCOA) file. For the 2022 election cycle, a total of 22.9% of all confirmation notices were triggered by comparing the NCOA file with the state’s voter registration database. The NCOA file is currently West Virginia’s only source of data for identifying voters in all 50 states.
Comparisons with another reliable data source, West Virginia DMV records, account for the state’s next-highest yield of outdated voter records, resulting in 19.6% of the confirmation notices sent to voters who moved to a new address within the state in the 2022 cycle.
The Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS) has been developed to ensure uniform statewide application of the list-maintenance process. Its functions allow county clerks to track abandoned registrations efficiently and accurately within the times and legal parameters required by law. As a result of the sophisticated functions we developed, 44% of all confirmation notices mailed during the 2022 election cycle were the result of leveraging the SVRS technology.
The other side of list-maintenance procedures that bolster election integrity is maintaining active, current registrations. Over the past six years, the state has registered 301,292 new voters, which includes more than 70,000 who just reached the legal voting age of 18.
As the list-maintenance processes ramp up for the 2024 election cycle, we have numerous sources of data available to keep the lists accurate. Specifically, those sources include the United States Postal Service’s NCOA file, the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File, state Vital Statistics Office, Division of Motor Vehicles, and Division of Corrections.
Despite the success we have had with cleaning our state’s voter rolls, the future of voter registration list maintenance is a 50-state solution that goes beyond what the NCOA file provides. This is where West Virginia is again taking the lead. We are leveraging data-driven technology to find a truly nonpartisan solution for the entire country.
West Virginia previously received some list-maintenance data through its membership in the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), which was a convenient way to obtain data from certain sources. Removing state-level sources from that membership, ERIC helped identify approximately 14% of voters who received confirmation notices after moving out of state in 2022.
However, it is noteworthy that more than half of the out-of-state cancellations came from bordering states, including Ohio and Virginia. Those two states have also submitted their withdrawal from ERIC. With those withdrawals, West Virginia’s utility for remaining an ERIC member significantly decreases. Instead, it will prove more effective to execute data-sharing agreements with our bordering states going forward, without impacting our ability to keep our rolls clean and updated.
West Virginia voters can rest assured that our election process is safe, secure, and anchored by the most accurate voter registration lists in the history of our state. That is one reason why I have been called to testify in front of Congress four times to share with members and their respective states West Virginia’s success story. They want to know why voter confidence is so high in West Virginia, how we have cleaned our voter rolls, and what we have done to secure our elections. Thanks to technology and the uniform efforts of all 55 county clerks, confidence in our elections has never been higher.
Mac Warner is serving his second term as the West Virginia Secretary of State. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the WVU College of Law, Secretary Warner retired from the U.S. Army with 23 years of service at the rank of Lt. Colonel.