G-OpEd™: Prevention of Election Fraud Key to Successful, Accurate and Fair Elections

The Free Press WV

On December 06, 2018 the Charleston Gazette-Mail published an editorial titled “North Carolina case may show real election fraud.” This commentary is in response to that editorial.

Since taking office, my administration has well-publicized two top election priorities: preventing election fraud, and investigating people who violate election laws.  For far too long, West Virginia has gotten a black eye for illegal activities prior to and during elections.

Over the last 21 months, our legal team has secured four convictions for election fraud, not just the one cited in the editorial. More notably, in 2018 alone our Investigations Unit closed 262 investigations.  Some of the misconduct was substantial enough we presented the cases to counties for further court action, but some county prosecutors chose alternative resolutions and did not present the cases to grand juries.

By way of comparison, in the year prior to my taking office, only 40 investigations were closed. The 262 investigations this year arose almost exclusively out of citizen complaints of improprieties, and the volume of complaints indicates there are still numerous concerns of election integrity issues throughout West Virginia.

Our Investigations Unit is currently comprised of 11 professional law enforcement investigators contracted with our Office to investigate when needed. We are able to call them at a moment’s notice when complaints are filed, and they can be on-site anywhere in West Virginia in less than two hours. This responsiveness is new to West Virginia, as only two investigators – for our 1.8 million citizens—were used prior to my taking office.  Now that we are conducting data-driven analyses for potential double voting, looking for mistaken voter identities, and searching absentee ballot trends to spot system misuse, our serious efforts at reducing fraud are making a difference.

This type of response has captured the respect of elections officials and law enforcement agencies inside and outside WV. Importantly, people who might attempt to cheat have noticed as well. One report to our office cited an individual who chose to move to Florida saying, “There is a new Secretary of State, and we can’t do what we used to do at election time.” Ultimately, that’s the message that needs to be heard. Prevention of election fraud is the goal, reflected by our Election Division’s motto, “Easy to Vote and Hard to Cheat.”

The previous editorial referenced one of the four convictions regarding acts in the 2016 election cycle. That conviction stemmed from an important issue that should be watched closely. The perpetrator could have been prevented from casting an illegal vote if additional prevention measures were present between the DMV’s system and the statewide voter registration database.

The perpetrator was a non-citizen who registered to vote through the DMV’s Motor Voter process. Although non-citizens are eligible to get a West Virginia driver’s license, they are not eligible to register to vote. Upon discovery of the improper registration, the county notified the perpetrator that he was not eligible to register to vote and the county canceled his voter registration.

But the ineligible non-citizen continued his pursuit to vote even after the initial cancellation. By using his driver’s license number in WV’s Online Voter Registration portal (OVR), he improperly registered to vote online.  Subsequently, he unlawfully cast a ballot in the 2016 General Election. In a post-election review, election officials became aware of his wrong-doings and took the appropriate action that ultimately led to his conviction.

With increased prevention measures, improper registrations by ineligible registrants can be stopped long before they are able to cast a ballot. We have a duty to protect the election system from fraud as well as to protect people who may register to vote when ineligible–either by design or by mistake. By not doing so, ineligible voters become at risk, and legitimate voters lose confidence in the integrity our elections.

West Virginia’s OVR system verifies the validity of a registrant’s information by matching the driver’s license number to data maintained by the DMV.  The DMV currently processes non-citizen applications for driver’s licenses, but does not use that information for the purpose of preventing ineligible voter registration. Working together with the Governor’s Office and DMV, I will be asking the Legislature to enact common sense measures to prevent ineligible voters from using these registration systems.

In 2016, there were 26 races in WV decided by less than 10 votes. In 2018, we had races won by absentee ballots alone. With close races like that, we must do all we can to ensure every person voting is eligible and fraud remains thwarted by proper voter roll list maintenance and registration processes.

Every vote counts, and just one improper vote dissipates the votes of valid registered voters. Think about it. One improper vote in a close race could change the outcome of an election and invalidate the true wishes of the electorate. Based on the hundreds of election violation investigations closed this year, it is clear West Virginians take election security very seriously and that our Office, with 55 county clerks, are leading the charge to provide successful, accurate and fair elections.

Mac Warner
WV Secretary of State

Speaker Hanshaw fills key majority leadership positions in WV House of Delegates

The Free Press WV

House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, today announced several key members of his leadership team for the 84thLegislature.

Delegate Amy Summers, R-Taylor, will serve as Majority Leader; Delegate Kayla Kessinger, R-Fayette, will serve as Assistant Majority Leader; and Delegate Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson, will serve as Majority Whip.

“Republican leadership has made great strides to improve our state since taking over the Legislature in 2015, and now I’m looking to assemble a team of people that can build on that foundation and take us to a new level of prosperity,” Speaker Hanshaw said. “Amy, Kayla and Paul are committed to moving our state forward, and have shown repeatedly over the last few years that they have the energy, passion and command of the issues to help effectively lead our caucus in the coming years.”

Delegate Summers was first elected to the House in 2014, and will be the first Republican woman to serve as Majority Leader. A registered nurse and owner of an Angus cattle farm, she most recently served as vice-chairwoman of the House Health Committee. She also served on the Agriculture and Natural Resources, Judiciary and Political Subdivisions committees.

“Having worked with Amy the past four years on the Judiciary Committee, I’ve seen firsthand the reasoning and tenacity that will help her excel as Majority Leader,” Speaker Hanshaw said.

“I’m honored by the confidence Speaker Hanshaw has shown in me with the Majority Leader appointment,” Delegate Summers said. “West Virginia is at a key turning point. Our caucus’s bold, conservative leadership has pulled the state out of the morass in the past few years, and now we have a tremendous opportunity to build a brighter future for all. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the coming years to create a more prosperous state for generations to come.”

Delegate Kessinger was also first elected to the House in 2014. She has served most recently as the vice-chairwoman of the House Select Committee on Prevention and Treatment of Substance Abuse, as well as on the Energy, Judiciary, Small Business and Economic Development, and Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security committees. In her role, she will help Majority Leader Summers to lead the House Republican caucus and manage daily floor sessions.

“Kayla was the second-youngest member of the Legislature when she was first elected, but in four short years she has become one of the leaders within our caucus through the way she fiercely tackles issues and works to effect change,” Speaker Hanshaw said.

“I am greatly humbled by this appointment and look forward to working with all members to make a difference in our state,” Delegate Kessinger said. “State lawmakers need to aggressively pursue policies that will reverse the drain of young, educated professionals from our state, and I’m grateful to be a voice for my generation within this House leadership team.”

Delegate Espinosa was first elected in 2012, and most recently served as chairman of the House Education Committee. In addition to that role, he has also served as Assistant Majority Whip and a member of the Finance, Rules, Roads and Transportation, and Small Business and Economic Development committees.

“As Education Committee Chairman and a member of Finance, Paul has had to navigate some extremely tumultuous waters in recent years to find solutions that benefit our state,” Speaker Hanshaw said. “I believe these experiences will be a tremendous asset in his new role as Whip.”

“I am grateful for this appointment and the Speaker’s confidence in me,” Delegate Espinosa said. “As Whip, I look forward to working with our caucus to build consensus, educate them on the intricacies of the issues facing our state, pass legislation and find new and innovative ways to move our state forward.”

Statement after another Abandoned Mine Trespassing report

The Free Press WV

Governor Jim Justice issued the following statement after a second abandoned mine trespassing incident was reported in the last two weeks:

“All West Virginians who are driving, riding ATV’s, or hiking near abandoned mines please STOP entering the abandoned mines. This is extremely irresponsible behavior that puts our first responders and mine safety crews in unsafe situations when they should be focused on ensuring safety at active mines. I cannot stress enough how dangerous these abandoned mines are and how hazardous they are to humans.“

Original statement from the West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training:

The West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training (MHS&T) confirms it is assisting the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Office in the search for four individuals reported missing near the Elk Run Coal Company’s Rock House Powellton Mine in Clear Creek, WV. 

The MHS&T mine rescue team was activated early this morning after an abandoned ATV the individuals were believed to be riding was found near the mine entrance.  Members of the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Office, along with officials from the mining company and MHS&T, met this morning to assess the situation and prepare an action plan.

A team of four rescuers comprised of two members from MHST and two from parent company Alpha Natural Resources, entered the mine at approximately 1 p.m. to begin the search.

Eugene White, MHS&T director, says it may be several hours before additional updates are available.

Corridor H among WVDOT projects awarded $40 million in grants

The Free Press WV

The West Virginia Department of Transportation will be receiving major funding on two specific projects.

West Virginia will receive $40 million through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development (BUILD) Grants to construct a bypass around Berkeley Springs and the construction of approximately 10 miles of a four-lane expressway in Tucker County.

In a release, U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said, “This is a much needed investment in two critical projects that will make West Virginia roadways safer and more efficient. Not only is this good for travelers and those living in Berkeley Springs and Tucker County communities, but it’s good for commerce and our state’s economic potential by better connecting West Virginia to transportation hubs around the country,” Senator Capito said. “From my first day in the Senate, I have advocated for Corridor H and similar projects that will greatly improve our transportation infrastructure, and I’m glad my conversations with Transportation Secretary Chao have proved beneficial to West Virginia. I will continue working to help deliver similar resources.”

BUILD grants are given to states, regions, and communities through need and the potential impact it could have on the area.

The possible 10-mile construction for a four-lane expressway in Tucker County will connect to a part of Corridor H in Parsons, a system designed to connect east-central West Virginia to large cities and points along I-81.

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, D. W.Va., expressed the importance of the funding in a statement on Thursday: “Investing in American infrastructure is one of the most important steps we can take to put people back to work and get our economy moving again. I have personally discussed the need for BUILD Grant infrastructure funding with Secretary Chao and stressed to her the vital need to West Virginia. I was very disturbed by the lack of funding within this program for Appalachia last year. I continue to believe that the construction of transportation infrastructure can spur economic development in our state, which is why I have worked with the Department of Transportation to encourage them to make changes to this critical program, and I am happy to see that West Virginia is reaping those benefits today. I will continue to push for increased funding to complete Corridor H and the Appalachian Highway Development System.”

$20 million will go towards the Tucker County expressway project along Corridor H while $20 million will go into the Berkeley Spring bypass project on U.S. Route 522. The construction in Morgan County will include the making of the Fairview Connector. The completion of the bypass will make it four miles long and a four-lane highway.

Congressman Alex X. Mooney, W.Va.-02, expressed these words in a statement on Thursday about both projects: “These investments will continue to boost economic activity and enhance safety. Infrastructure is vital to the economic development and growth of this region. I am glad that Secretary (Elaine) Chao approved my requests and I will continue to work with Governor (Jim) Justice’s Administration, the West Virginia Congressional Delegation and local leaders on much needed local improvement projects. Although Tucker County borders my Congressional District, this project will benefit the entire region.”

There is a press conference scheduled for Tuesday, December 11, in Washington, D.C. to officially announce the award. Among those scheduled to be in attendance is Gov. Jim Justice.

This is the first type of BUILD grants received by West Virginia since 2014.

“This is big-time grant money coming to us for the first time in four years,” Gov. Justice said in a statement. “With this $40 million, the WV Department of Transportation can make real progress on these two projects, and keep the momentum going full-steam ahead on my initiative to improve West Virginia’s aging transportation infrastructure.

“My office reached out to the White House and the U.S. Dept. of Transportation several months ago and asked why West Virginia had been overlooked for this funding the past several years. We then made a strong case for funding these projects, and I could not be happier with this announcement today. All West Virginians will benefit from these projects.”

Skeletal remains found at Weston residence

The Free Press WV

Occupants of a Weston residence got quite the surprise on Wednesday.

According to Weston Police Chief Josh Thomas, a partial human skeleton was discovered inside of a home.

Authorities said the partial skeleton has been turned over to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Charleston after being found by occupants.

Thomas added that no other information such as age, sex, or cause of death is known about the partial skeleton at this time.

Governor Justice submits recommendations to the PEIA Task Force

The Free Press WV

Governor Jim Justice sent a list of recommendations to the Coverage and Plan Subcommittee of the West Virginia PEIA Task Force, which was created to find a permanent fix for funding the health insurance plan for state employees and retirees.

The Governor’s letter included the following recommendations:

  • Move Plan A benefits back to 80/20 coinsurance in WV external bordering counties only
  • Move Plan B benefits back to 70/30 coinsurance in WV external bordering counties only
  • Remove facility fee limits from out of state facilities
  • Remove $25 copay for out-of-state services
  • Add an appeal process for people requiring a third-tier non-preferred drug to allow for reduced copays
  • I asked the coverage committee to review the wellness plans to further incentivize our members to seek better health outcomes

“I believe these recommendations address the issues that will benefit PEIA recipients the most,” Governor Justice said. “These changes along with my proposal for $100 million to the PEIA stabilization fund over the next two years will go a long way to fixing PEIA.”

“I appreciate the many hours of hard work all the members of the PEIA Task Force have put into this project and I look forward to seeing the final report in the coming days.”

WV Are Invited to Participate in National Discussion on Election Cybersecurity

The Free Press WV

The Council of State Governments is a national organization that fosters the exchange of insights and ideas to help state officials shape public policy.  Founded in 1933, the Council offers state and national leaders the opportunity to collaborate on, create and discuss problem-solving initiatives facing today’s elected officials and administrators.

The Council’s 2018 National Conference will be held December 06-08 at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center in Covington, Kentucky.  Several hundred national, state and local leaders will attend the event.  One of the most anticipated topics of discussion is a comprehensive panel on election cybersecurity hosted by The Democracy Fund. Two key advisors to the Secretary on election security, Assistant to the Chief of Staff Adam Young and Elections Specialist Nathan Martin, will represent Secretary Warner at the conference.

Because of the state’s leadership in this area, the Council invited the WV Secretary of State’s Office to be their guest at the conference.  West Virginia is a leader in developing best practices and protocols to secure election administration, processes and procedures.  The Mountain State’s emphasis on technology, voting system upgrades, voter list maintenance, voter registration and election officials’ training are often recognized at the national level by experts in the field, the federal government and the media.

“This is yet another great example of West Virginia’s efforts and accomplishments of leading the nation in planning for and providing free, fair and secure elections,” said Secretary of State Mac Warner.

“Our partnership with our 55 county clerks has never been more effective than it is today.  When we work together, we give our citizens confidence that every vote cast by a qualified, registered voter is properly secured and counted.  When that confidence is provided, voter participation and the overall integrity of the election increases,” Warner said.

Marshall University Reviews Building’s Confederate Name

The Free Press WV

Marshall University has hosted a meeting to hear opinions on whether to change the name of a building honoring a Confederate Civil War general.

Faculty, staff and alumni spoke at the meeting hosted by a school committee formed to examine the name of Jenkins Hall.

The hall honors Gen. Albert Gallatin Jenkins, who one professor told the committee was even criticized by the Confederate leaders Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.

College Republicans Secretary Trentan Sizemore noted the name change should mean a name change for the college itself, which honors Supreme Court judge and slave owner John Marshall.

The committee will collect and consider responses through Dec. 14 and will present a recommendation to the University President Jerome Gilbert in January. 

Governor Justice issues statement on Martinsburg State Trooper Incident

The Free Press WV

Governor Jim Justice issued the following statement:

“I was notified last night of an incident in Martinsburg, WV involving two troopers from the Martinsburg Detachment and a 16-year-old male suspect. The suspect was stopped by troopers after a pursuit and dashcam video taken at the scene shows the suspect being beaten by the two troopers. While I proudly support the brave efforts of our law enforcement agencies every day it must be perfectly clear that I will NOT tolerate this kind of behavior in any way, shape, form, or fashion. I have instructed Col. Cahill to begin an investigation immediately and to pursue criminal charges if warranted to prevent behavior like this from ever happening again.”

“We have so many brave and respected men and women of law enforcement across West Virginia; all this does is cast a dark shadow on them. If this is the case, it will NOT be tolerated.”

The two troopers involved have been suspended without pay pending the investigation. An accompanying press release from the West Virginia State Police will provide additional details.

West Virginia Receives More Than $271,000 in Specialty Crop Block Grants

The Free Press WV

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the recipients of the 2018 Specialty Crop Block Grants (SCBG). Eight West Virginia projects will share in $271,980 of federal funding.

The money will be used to enhance the production, processing and consumption of specialty crops within West Virginia. Specialty crops are defined as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture.

“Specialty Crop Block Grants have had a tremendous impact on West Virginia. From research to education, as well as expanding agricultural markets, these grants are vital to our state,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt. “It is imperative they continue to be included in the next and future Farm Bills.”

This year total funding requests for projects was $360,042 from West Virginia organizations, agencies and institutions. The SCBG program funded the following eight:

  • WVDA (Statewide) - $68,342: “Developing New Detection Methods to Enhance Food Safety in Specialty Crops in West Virginia”
  • WVDA (Statewide) - $50,000: “2018-2021: West Virginia Specialty Crop Producer Education Opportunities”
  • West Virginia University (Statewide) - $31,460: “Growing Farmers, Horticulturists, Nutritionists in West Virginia: Garden-Based Learning for Elementary Schools”
  • Raleigh County Schools(Raleigh County) - $25,000: “Creating Education and Market Opportunities for Students and Beekeepers in Southern WV”
  • West Virginia University (Jefferson County) - $24,522: “Initiative to Develop a Cider Apple and Cider Production Economy in West Virginia”
  • Yew Mountain Center (Pocahontas County) - $19,932: “Yew Mountain Center Forest Farming with Non-Timber Forest Products Research and Education Project”
  • WVDA (Statewide) - $17,500: “2018-2021: Supporting GAP Audits of Specialty Crops”
  • West Virginia State University (McDowell County) - $15,000: “Southside K-8 Tunnel and School Farm Project”

Grant recipients have three years to plan, implement and gather data on their respective projects.

The USDA handed out more than $72.1 million to 788 SCBG projects across the United States and its territories for 2018. For complete project descriptions, click HERE.

FedEx driver reported missing in Roane County

The Free Press WV

The search for a missing FedEx van and its driver has ended in Roane County.

On Tuesday, officials with Roane County Emergency Management said the driver was found uninjured in a remote section of Orchard Run where his vehicle had gotten stuck.

He was reported missing earlier Tuesday after last being seen on Monday evening in the areas of Orchard Run, Clover and Otto.

The following description was released for the driver: “Driver is black male, facial hair, approximately 50 years old, wearing FedEx uniform.”

State Police and deputies with the Roane County Sheriff’s Department were involved in the investigation.

Governor Justice Appoints Spence as Chief Technology Officer

The Free Press WV

Governor Jim Justice has appointed Joshua D. Spence as Chief Technology Officer for the State of West Virginia. He fills the position created by the retirement of John D. Dunlap.

Spence has served as the state’s Chief Information Security Officer since 2015.

He holds a master’s degree in Information Technology Management from Marshall University.

He also holds a number of industry certifications, including Certified Information Systems Security Professional, Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Incident Handler, Certified EC-Council Instructor and Security+.

In addition to his role as Chief Technology Officer, Spence will maintain his position as a drill status guardsman with the West Virginia Air National Guard as a Cyber Operations Officer. Prior to his appointment as the State Chief Information Security Officer, Spence served as the Cybersecurity Manager for the West Virginia Air National Guard, 130th Airlift Wing.

The appointment is effective immediately.

West Virginia telescope to host spacecraft landing party

The Free Press WV

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia is holding a public event to track a NASA lander on Mars.

A landing party for the InSight spacecraft is set for Monday afternoon in Green Bank in Pocahontas County.

The spacecraft will enter the Martian atmosphere at supersonic speed, then attempt to make a soft landing after a six-month journey.

Visitors can watch live footage from NASA TV and the Green Bank Telescope’s control room.

There also will be a presentation about the Mars mission as well as hands-on activities.

Unemployment Rate Up in Most WV Counties

The Free Press WV

Most counties in West Virginia saw an increase in unemployment in October, according to numbers released by WorkForce West Virginia.

Filings for unemployment compensation went up in 39 of the state’s 55 counties.

Unemployment declined in two counties and stayed the same as September numbers in 14 counties.

McDowell County (8.6 percent) is the only county reporting unemployment in excess of eight percent.

Pendleton County has the state’s lowest unemployment at 2.8 percent.

Other counties at below four percent include Monongalia (3.7), Berkeley (3.7), Hampshire (3.6), Doddridge (3.5) and Jefferson (3.1).

The state’s overall unemployment rate for October was 4.6 percent up one-tenth of one percent from September.

The Free Press WV

Sutton man charged in wife’s death

The Free Press WV

A Braxton County man has been arrested in connection with the shooting death of his wife.

John Homer Carroll Jr., 56, of Sutton, allegedly killed Donna Carroll, 54, at their home on Bug Ridge Road Monday night.

According to troopers, Carroll called Braxton County 911 at around 9 p.m. and said he had shot his wife about a half-hour earlier.

When troopers arrived they said Carroll was approaching them with a rifle and they exchanged fire.

He later jumped into a roadside ditch and eventually tossed two guns into the road, troopers said.

Carroll was treated for minor injuries after he was grazed by one of the shots.

He’s being held in the Central Regional Jail without bail.

Click Below for additional Articles...

Page 1 of 22 pages  1 2 3 >  Last »

The Gilmer Free Press

Copyright MMVIII-MMXVIII The Gilmer Free Press. All Rights Reserved