By Natalie E. Tennant
West Virginia Secretary of State
Studies estimate that adults spend five or more hours per day online on a mobile device, tablet or computer. As more and more West Virginians and Americans expect to be able to complete everyday tasks online, it is only fitting that the Secretary of State’s Office worked to make our voter registration application available online.
The process began earlier this year, in June, when we announced that thanks to a partnership between our office and the Division of Motor Vehicles, statewide in-person electronic voter registration is available at each of the 24 DMV regional office locations across West Virginia. Our state residents can now electronically register to vote when they visit any DMV regional office for the purpose of issuing or renewing a driver’s license or identification card.
And, on Sept. 30 our office unveiled its new online electronic voter registration platform – allowing West Virginians to submit a voter registration application from their computer, smartphone or tablet. In its first month, the online platform saw 1,082 submissions from across the state – including residents from 50 of West Virginia’s 55 counties. Of the 1,082 submissions, 439 were new voter registration applications, 349 were address changes, 267 were party changes and 27 were name changes.
The online voter registration process is simple. West Virginia citizens can now enter basic information into an online form at http://www.wvsos.com. The system verifies the information provided by the applicant with DMV records. If verified, the applicant is permitted to complete the application process online. After being submitted, the information is then electronically sent to the appropriate county clerk’s office. After the application has been processed, the voter registration card is sent in the mail by the county clerk. As indicated in the first-month statistics, the online application enables West Virginians to update their party or address information. Name changes can be updated through the online application after they’ve been changed with the DMV.
This is an exciting and historic change to the voter registration process and I’m so proud of the work that we’ve done to make the platform secure and easy-to-use. West Virginians serving in Afghanistan, attending college in North Carolina or completing the form from home in Rupert all have the same access to the voter registration application from wherever they are in the world.
Before the launch of the online voter registration application, the Secretary of State’s Office had already seen success with other efforts to modernize our processes with technology. We’ve enhanced businesses’ ability to do much of their paperwork online and notary publics to utilize electronic notarization. Technology is a wonderful thing that can save taxpayers time and money by eliminating paper waste.
As we all continue on with voter registration initiatives, we must remember that while voter registration is important, it is just the first step in a two-part process. The second, most crucial, step is actually casting one’s ballot. The cornerstone of our democracy is and always has been the right and duty to choose our own leaders and not have them chosen for us. Participating in the election process and choosing the individuals who will lead this nation is not a right that was just given to us, it is a right that many have fought and even died to protect. It is my job as Secretary of State to encourage citizens to honor that sacrifice by registering to vote and then casting their ballot when the time comes to do so. Many citizens in surrounding states had the opportunity to vote this November. West Virginians will next visit the polls in May.
If you believe that a representative government can only be achieved by a majority of the citizens participating like I do, then join me in re-energizing your family, friends and neighbors through the whole year. Hold a voter registration drive in your community. Send the online voter registration page link to a friend. Bring a voter registration form to someone you know who is not registered or who has had their address changed recently. Help us spread the word that one’s vote is important and it truly does matter. During my time as Secretary of State, I have witnessed several races determined by a single vote right here in West Virginia and I anticipate similar results in the future. Every single one of us can make a difference.