Warner announces unique partnership to eliminate barriers to the ballot box for voters with certain physical disabilities

Charleston, W. Va. – In 2018, West Virginia became the first state in the history of the nation to offer overseas and military voters the option of using a mobile phone or tablet to vote in a federal election. For many military men and women deployed to remote areas of the world without dependable access to the U.S. Mail, electronic absentee voting is their only option to participate in our democracy. In a voting pilot project hosted by WV Secretary of State Mac Warner during the 2018 General Election, 144 West Virginia voters from 31 different countries were able to vote using the technology.

A new law passed unanimously by the WV Legislature in January of this year (SB 94) expands the electronic absentee voting option to voters with a physical disability who cannot get to the polls and vote without assistance. The program was developed by the Secretary of State’s Office and its Elections Division but will be managed at the county level by each of the state’s 55 county clerks. This electronic ballot project allows for a paper ballot to be produced for every vote cast.

“We often hear that every vote counts. In West Virginia, every voter counts, too,” Warner said. “While we expect the number of West Virginia voters who are eligible to use the electronic ballot option in the June Primary Election is small, the benefits of eliminating barriers to our democracy are huge.”

Disability Rights of West Virginia, an organization that supports and advocates for voters with disabilities, agrees with Warner and has been educating the public on this new accessible method of absentee voting for the June Primary Election.

“Disability Rights of West Virginia is excited about the selection of this new tool that will deliver accessible voting options to our constituents. We plan on hosting outreach events across the state so that everyone who is eligible to use this tool understands how the process works,” said Jeremiah J. Underhill, Legal Director for Disability Rights of West Virginia.

Warner said he supported the passage of SB 94 because the law makes it possible for voters with physical disabilities to vote privately and securely in an election. “The Legislature’s unanimous approval for this electronic absentee option recognizes the great importance of our family members, friends, and neighbors living with physical disabilities who cannot make it to the polls, to finally have a voice in our democracy,” Warner said.

The specific electronic absentee ballot technology that will be available to eligible voters in the June 9 Primary Election is hosted by Seattle, WA-based company “Democracy Live,” and funded by Tusk Montgomery Philanthropies at no cost to the state. Democracy Live was founded in 2007 and was originally approved and funded in part by the federal U.S. Elections Assistance Commission and Department of Health and Human Resources to assist certain absentee voters with casting their absentee ballots privately and securely.

The technology is 100% ADA compliant. Importantly, the availability of this technology in West Virginia is a substantial security improvement from traditional electronic absentee voting options. View a short video of how the Democracy Live system works here.

Warner said that the online ballot portal is hosted in the Amazon AWS cloud, which is FedRAMP-certified and used by numerous federal agencies for the storage of highly sensitive and classified information. Some of the federal agencies that use the AWS cloud for secure information storage include the CIA, FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of Defense.

To learn more about who is eligible, the procedures for applying for an absentee ballot, and absentee voting deadlines for the June 9 Primary Election, please visit GoVoteWV.com or contact the WVSOS Elections Division at 304-558-6000.

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