Voting Issues

APRIL 2020

• West Virginia: Democratic members in both chambers of the heavily GOP legislature have urged Republican Gov. Jim Justice to make the June primary take place near-entirely via mail by sending every registered voter a ballot automatically and limiting in-person voting. West Virginia already implemented a plan to mail absentee ballot applications to all voters, but voters still have to return the application and have it processed by election workers before getting mailed a ballot, which universal mail voting would render unnecessary.

MARCH 2020

• West Virginia: Republican Secretary of State Mac Warner says all voters will be sent an absentee ballot application with a postage-paid return envelope ahead of West Virginia's May 12 presidential and downballot primaries. Previously, Warner effectively waived the state's requirement that voters provide an excuse to vote absentee by allowing all voters to cite the coronavirus as their reason.

• West Virginia: A federal district court has denied West Virginia's motion to dismiss a Democratic-backed lawsuit arguing that the way the state determines the ordering of how candidates appear on the ballot violates the U.S. Constitution.

State law requires that the party that won the most votes in the last presidential election in the state be listed first for all partisan offices. Because of the state's heavily Republican lean at the presidential level, that means the GOP gets listed first in all downballot races.

The plaintiffs argue that this system violates the First and 14th Amendments because candidates listed first can enjoy a boost in support that can prove decisive in a close election, particularly in downballot races where voters have much less information about the candidates than they do for the top of the ticket. Thanks to the court's ruling, plaintiffs will now have the chance to have their case decided on its merits.

• West Virginia: Republican Secretary of State Mac Warner GOP made an unexpected announcement late last month that West Virginia would not implement a bipartisan-backed change to let military, overseas, and disabled voters vote online by smartphone in the upcoming May primary, citing security concerns. Instead, those voters can print out paper ballots they can mail in. It's unclear if this change will be made for the general election, too.



• West Virginia: Republican Gov. Jim Justice has signed a new law that legislators unanimously passed to enable voters with certain disabilities to vote over the internet via smartphone app or their computer, an option that was already available for military and overseas voters. Lawmakers said they feared failing to enact such legislation would have left the state vulnerable to a lawsuit given that some voters are unable to cast a paper ballot without assistance.

However, election security advocates have warned that any type of internet-based voting is potentially vulnerable to hacking. Other states have adopted methods of voting accessible to people with disabilities that don't pose this same risk, such as certain voting machines that print a ballot and aren't connected to the internet or mobile polling places for mobility-impaired voters.

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