West Virginia improves voting rates - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

West Virginia improves voting rates

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West Virginia hasn't always been the first state to do things, but when the Mountain State makes a comeback, it makes a large one.

In 2008, the state received a 51 percent in its election performance, according to a Pew Charitable Trusts research study. By 2012, the state had improved that average by 10 percent bringing the election performance indicator to a 61 percent.

Read more about the study at pewstates.org/states.

Secretary of State Natalie Tennant's office said the increase is in large part due to its emphasis on military voting and recent online tools.

Jake Glance, spokesman for the secretary of state's office, said for more than four years the office has concentrated on military voters. He said what should seem like a relatively easy, commonsense task has improved dramatically in the past several years.

The amount of military votes lost in the state was only .18 percent for 2012, making West Virginia second in the country for receiving the best rating on returning overseas military ballots to their respective polls.

"They're putting their lives on the line and you have to make sure they have access to the ballot," he said. "Sometimes it (would take) their ballots weeks to get to them and get back."

Glance said with new online tools, military service men and women can send their ballots through email. 

A process that used to take weeks now can be reduced to a matter of minutes, he said.

The office has also concentrated on online voter registration and tracking absentee ballots.

When it came to "voting information look-up tools" West Virginia received a four out of five.

Other online tools offered through the SOS (sos.wv.gov) website include checking individual voter registration records and party affiliations, checking to see if an absentee ballot has been received by the county clerk's office and checking to be sure your ballot was counted.

"I think it really shows we're making the voting process transparent and accessible to people," Glance added.

The overall completeness of the study went from 71 percent to 96 percent, meaning the amount of data available to simply analyze and do the study improved greatly.