The unsung heroes of free, fair and successful elections
As West Virginians reflect on the 2020 elections and look forward to a season of gratitude, we should be especially thankful to those who helped lead our state through another free and fair election.
We should take pride in our leaders’ and fellow citizens’ willingness to work together to secure democracy during a challenging time such as this. We owe it to the county clerks, poll workers, the Governor’s Office, DHHR and other state and federal partners for banding together to ensure all West Virginians had information and access to participate in such an historic moment.
West Virginia general election voters set records for the most absentee and early votes cast in West Virginia history, and this year’s overall turnout is highest since the record-setting presidential election of 1960. It is worth noting that West Virginia had over 50,000 more residents in 1960 than we do today.
To the more than 800,000 voters who made your voices heard, your strong turnout is the foundation for confidence in our system and the election results. Your participation and patience at the polls have not gone unnoticed, and we appreciate your willingness to cooperate with local guidelines to keep our election workers and fellow voters safe during the 2020 election cycle held during this pandemic.
We also appreciate voters’ willingness to cooperate and have patience with our county clerks as they adapted to the pandemic to hold the safest elections possible. County clerks worked tirelessly to ensure their communities were afforded safe and secure options to vote and communicated constantly with our office and their local government agencies to enact these safety precautions.
We also owe a huge debt of gratitude to the poll workers who served on the frontlines during early voting and on Election Day. To the thousands of veteran, first-time, and alternate poll workers who signed up to serve and ensure safe in-person voting, your commitment to our democracy is immeasurable.
A special thanks goes to the more than one thousand candidates who ran for public office this cycle, as they are the core of our democracy. This was a challenging year to campaign, yet they put their personal lives on hold; they put themselves “out there” for the betterment of the state, and they put forth ideas and policies that energized our electorate to participate in record numbers. The direction and the future of our state now lies the hands of the leaders we have chosen.
Overall, West Virginia had a very smooth election, but it wasn’t without its challenges. On Election Day, our office received routine calls about polling locations and the typical issues observed in polling places.
In one unusual situation, a voter accidentally knocked over a voting machine, putting it out of service. Fortunately, officials replaced the machine in a reasonable amount of time and voting resumed as normal.
In another case, power was knocked out due to a windstorm. Thanks to constant communication with power companies and local emergency service providers, they deployed pre-positioned portable generators restoring power without delay.
On the state level, our partners at the National Guard and Office of Technology kept watch on digital threats to our elections systems. The Fusion Center and our law enforcement agencies kept watch on physical security at the polling locations, and the Election Anti-Fraud Task Force stood guard to investigate any improprieties. We kept in close contact throughout Election Day and had constant communications regarding voter safety and election security.
This election will be remembered prominently in the history books. We provided voters more ways to vote than any other state, and voters responded with record numbers.
Our clerks tallied votes and delivered results on Election Night, and we did not experience the difficulties so many other states underwent. This was a team effort by often unsung heroes, with everybody doing their part.
West Virginians should be proud of how we cooperated in 2020 to execute one of the best, if not the best, free and fair election in the United States.
(Mac Warner is in his fourth year as WV Secretary of State. He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and the West Virginia University College of Law.)