Cumberland Times-News

April 20, 2013

Common sense

West Virginia laws should improve state’s voting process

Cumberland Times-News

— West Virginia’s voting process should be improved as a result of two bills passed by the state’s Legislature.

One of the measures makes it easier to register to vote. The other is a common-sense bill making it easier to clear the names of dead people from voting rolls.

The registration measure will permit West Virginians to register online if they already have a digital signature on file with the Division of Motor Vehicles or other state agencies. The bill allows county clerks to digitally transfer a potential voter’s signature from a driver’s license application to the voter registration form. In the future, the state hopes to approve other means of verifying identity for prospective voters, such as Social Security numbers.

Secretary of State Natalie Tennant told the Charleston Gazette: “I am always about making elections more accessible to the voter and more efficient for the voter, too,’’ Tennant said.

The other bill addresses an incredulous situation that bars county clerks from removing a dead person’s name from voting rolls even when it is clear the person is deceased. Tennant gave the following example to the Charleston paper:

“Did (Sen.) Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) die?’’ Tennant asked rhetorically. “He did. We had presidents here, we had senators here, he died and we know that. But the county where he was registered couldn’t take him off the rolls.’’

Currently, a clerk needs an official obituary, a death certificate or a sworn statement from a family member to remove someone from a voting list, none of which the Raleigh County Clerk’s office had immediately following Byrd’s death. There were articles about Byrd’s death in nearly every paper in the country, but the clerk’s office did not have an “obituary notice,’’ as required by state code. Because Byrd died out of state, a death certificate was late in arriving, and no family member contacted the clerk’s office.

Under the new law, county clerks will be able to use “other writings” such as newspaper articles or a message from the post office to remove a deceased person’s name from the voting rolls.

Sadly, sometimes it takes a law to permit us to exercise common sense.