Secretary of State Mac Warner praises county clerks for running free, fair, clean elections

MORGANTOWN — Back in 2016, some prominent Democrats hollered that President Donald Trump was an illegitimate president. In 2020, Republicans were hollering “rigged election,” and we had the Jan. 6 insurrection in 2021. And now people on both sides are preparing to holler “rigged” if the other side wins.

Secretary of State Mac Warner told county clerks from across the state on Wednesday that West Virginia is an example of doing elections right, and other states are taking notice and asking how.

“We do what you clerks have done right here and run free, fair, clean elections.”

The occasion was the 2024 annual training for county clerks and deputies, held at the Marriott at Waterfront Place, with 52 of the 55 county clerks attending.

This is Warner’s last election as secretary of state, and he recalled how 7½ years ago, after he was elected but before he took office, about eight clerks called his office and asked him to attend the annual training.

It was a bipartisan group speaking with one voice on his role. “They set the tone by this impartiality and a concern for the state.”

They told him, “We need to clean things up and put this state on the right track when it comes to elections. … That theme of free, fair, clean elections has been the hallmark of these last seven-eight years.”

And it made West Virginia a model for the rest of the nation when it comes to elections, he said. He commended the clerks for pointing him in the right direction and for doing outstanding work in their individual counties.

“These are your elections,” he told them. They were chosen in partisan elections, but the politics go away when they enter their offices. “As we head into this very-contentious political season, our job as clerks, as secretary of state, is to stay above that.”

And if they have any questions about his successor, call that person into a meeting like they had with him.

He expanded on those themes in a conversation afterward with The Dominion Post.

“Many states have been asking how we have been so successful, how do we get our results on election night,” he said, saying it comes from sound preparation and training, staying out of the politics, innovation and getting the most-modern equipment.

West Virginia voters have options, he said: early voting, absentee and e-voting for those out of state. “All of those things go together to build a system that works, works properly, works in a timely fashion. That’s how you take the elections out of being weaponized for one party or another.”

We asked about mail-in voting. Some states employ it for every election. Here, it was a COVID measure when people were confined to their homes.

Despite that one-time success, he doesn’t support going that direction. It removes the element of security provided by observation of trained poll workers of both parties at the polling places, he said.

And that’s not just his opinion, he added. Former Democratic President Jimmy Carter and former Republican U.S. Secretary of State James Baker led a commission that concluded mail-in ballots are the most susceptible to fraud.

“I adhere to that completely,” he said. “We need to minimize the mail-in and maximize the in-person voting under the trained observers, the poll workers of both parties.”

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