Warner: Jan. 29 Last Day To File for Elected Office
The period to file to run in the 2022 Primary Election is half over — it ends on Jan. 29th. To find out how things are going so far, Eric Douglas spoke with Secretary of State Mac Warner about his role overseeing the state’s elections.
The West Virginia Primary Election will be held on May 10, 2022. The last day to register to vote is April 29, 2022.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Douglas: We're literally right at the middle of the candidate filing period for the primary election. Let's go through the numbers real fast first. How many candidates have filed?
Warner: Up to the last hour, we had 662 total filings. Those are for the statewide races and House of Delegates and that sort of thing. In these off year elections, you have a lot of the state executive committees, party challenges that are on the ballot. We've had 467 of those.
Douglas: For the actual elected official races, you're just shy of 200 candidates for the various leadership roles.
Warner: Just to put it in context, that's about what we had at this stage four years ago in 2018. You want to compare this to off year elections versus elections when there are presidential races, governor and so forth. So we're about on track with where we were four years ago.
Douglas: Any surprises popping out to you?
Warner: Not really. What we have is a lot of moving parts this election. I’m saying that because the 2020 census was just done. We all know that West Virginia lost some population. We went from three congressional districts to two. So there is some movement of lines and districts. And then the state legislature, a couple years ago, directed that we go with single member districts in the House of Delegates. So we went from 67 districts that used to have three and up to five members to now single member districts. So we have 100 delegates and there are 100 districts.
The message here to candidates is to make sure that you are living in the proper district. That is incumbent upon the candidate themselves. We'll do the best we can, but the requirements are that they know which district they live in.
With the adjustment in the populations due to the census, the county clerks have been very busy. And they will be sending out notifications to people if your precinct changed. The bottom line is, as we get closer, everybody needs to be paying attention.
Douglas: Just to be clear on one thing, candidates have to live in the district for a year prior to the general election, right?
Warner: That's correct.
Douglas: Back to the numbers for a second? How many candidates do you normally end up seeing in the course of an election for a primary election?
Warner: Again, going back to 2018, we had 2480 total filings. That included all of those party races that we talked about before. About 500 candidates are at the state level, House of Delegates, Senate.
Douglas: Do you normally see a big push, like the last day or so?
Warner: There is not necessarily a big push, but you have these late filers who are watching to see who else is running; are they self funded, or are they incumbents and that sort of thing. And if no one's filed, and obviously that last day it does generate interest, and then some people are deciding to run for the House or the Senate. That's why we have our offices open here in Charleston, in Clarksburg and in Martinsburg until midnight, on Saturday, January 29. Somebody can come in at the very last minute to file for office. If you're going to file by mail, it has to be postmarked by January 29.
Douglas: We're about five months from the Primary Election. What do West Virginia voters need to know?
Warner: A couple things. First, make sure that your registration is correct, your address is correct. That's the way the county clerk lets you know which precinct you're voting in and where your polling place location is. That sort of thing. Everybody can go to the website, GoVoteWV.com. It's a simple couple of clicks.
The second thing is, the 2020 elections were irregular. COVID-19, the executive order by the governor to stay home, we moved the election, sent out absentee applications. We're going back to what the normal course of businesses was in the state code to run elections. Don't just assume because it was done once it's going to be done the same the next time around. We are an excuse-based absentee voting state. That means you have to have a reason to vote absentee. And you have to fit a very clearly defined reason. So one of the reasons might be you've gotten COVID. And you need to stay home for medical reasons that would fit that medical excuse, but it's not the blanket excuse that we had in 2020.
Douglas: Is there anything else that we haven't talked about that you want to add?
Warner: Nationwide, there's a large voting bill that's being considered and the county clerks have been almost unanimous across the state; 54 of the 55 county clerks have voiced their opinion that it is not healthy for West Virginia. If anybody has questions about that, talk with your local county clerk. I'd be glad to discuss it as well. West Virginia has been recognized across the nation as setting a standard for clean, fair elections. I've been asked to testify in front of Congress twice and explained what West Virginia's doing and how we did it so well. It began with the cleaning up of the voter registration lists. People have confidence in the West Virginia elections. And we had record setting turnout, the highest since 1960. In the last 2020 elections, over 802,000 people voted, and we had about 1.1 million registered voters. So a very high turnout.
We implemented a new procedure called “See Something, Text Something.” If someone's intimidating you, somebody is trying to buy a vote or do anything nefarious, take a picture of it, send it to us, text it to us, let us know. We have investigators across the state, we are working with the US Attorney's Office, the Attorney General's Office, we have our own investigators, we'll be glad to put somebody on it to investigate.
We take voting improprieties very seriously, we will investigate and we will prosecute. And let's just nip it in the bud before anybody has any ideas of doing something improper.