Voting bill needs more thought

In the near future, it may be possible for people to vote in municipal elections even if they don’t live in a particular city — at least if a few members of the West Virginia’s Legislature get their way.

A bill circulating through the West Virginia House of Delegates, dubbed House Bill 2342, is aimed at creating the Taxation With Representation Act. If enacted, and that’s probably a big if at this point, anyone who pays a municipality’s user fee — such as the $2 per week fee in Weirton — would be able to vote in the city election. That would include those who don’t live within the city limits.

The legislation would create a new section of state code reading “Notwithstanding any other provision of this code to the contrary, and provided that a person is not otherwise disqualified, a person who lives outside a municipality’s corporate limits and who pays a user fee or other tax imposed by that municipality pursuant to (subsection) 8-13-13 of this code may vote in all elections of that municipality.”

The bill, introduced Jan. 11 by Del. Gary Howell and Del. Caleb Hanna, went before the House Political Subdivisions Committee Tuesday, and is then scheduled to appear on the agenda of the House Judiciary Committee.

This is hardly a new idea in West Virginia, though. In fact, there have been similar discussions during several previous sessions and it has seldom gone anywhere.

We doubt the results will be any different this year.

While the idea is admirable, it also has the potential to create an additional mudpit of bureaucracy, not to mention additional workloads thrust onto the Secretary of State’s Office and our local city clerks. The current legislation is simply a blanket statement, with no guidance offered.

Is it limited to only West Virginia residents, for example? We must remember, after all, there are those living in neighboring states who work in West Virginia and may pay a fee or tax to a city. Should someone who lives in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Virginia or Maryland be able to select a mayor or councilmember in the Mountain State?

Will there be a way to differentiate resident voters from non-resident voters?

Again, we understand the idea behind the bill, but this is something that simply may not be as practical as it appears.

It should be studied further before any action is taken.