CHARLESTON, W. Va. (WOWK) — Tuesday, September 24, marked Voter Registration Day, but actually signing up and registering to vote may be a thing of the past in West Virginia thanks to automatic voter registration, or AVR.
Currently, West Virginians have to sign up to register to vote. Automatic voter registration would change that by automatically registering voters, who could then “opt-out.”
AVR has been on the state’s radar since 2016 when legislation was passed. The deadline for the program implementation was initially extended to 2019 but has since been extended again until 2021.
According to the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office, aging infrastructure is one reason for the delay.
“The whole purpose of the delay is to make sure that the correct systems are in place, and that the best systems are provided for the county clerks to handle the influx of the registrations in their offices, and to make sure that connections between the DMV systems and the Secretary of States systems are talking properly,” said Donald Kersey, deputy legal counsel for the Secretary of State’s Office.
However, some lawmakers are concerned following a report issued by the Secretary of State’s Office earlier this week that cited “philosophical objections” to AVR.
“There was an opinion in the report that the Secretary of State’s Office and some of the clerks were against it,” explained House Delegate Mike Pushkin. “But the legislature passed it, that means it is law.”
Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have already approved automatic voter registration with more states expected to pass the reform soon. West Virginia was the third state to pass AVR laws.
For most states that have implemented AVR, the process has taken anywhere from one to three years. Currently, West Virginia is on track to have taken close to six years to implement the program.
However, the Secretary of State’s Office says it is not a question of if and that the program will be implemented by the July 2021 requirement.