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West Virginia becomes first in nation to allow those with disabilities to vote online

PRINCETON, W.Va. (WVVA) In 2018, West Virginia became the first state in the nation to offer electronic voting to servicemembers overseas. In the June 9th Primary, the state will lead the way once again by offering those who are disabled that same right.

Secretary of State Mac Warner launched the pilot project for the app in 2018, after battling barriers to the ballot box overseas.

"When I served in Afghanistan, I went six months without being able to send and receive mail due to IED attacks and other constraints. If there had been an election during that six month period, I would not have been able to vote," explained Warner, who has two sons and two daughters with service in the military who experienced similar issues.

Still, some states have raised concerns over whether the system can successfully fend of cybersecurity attacks. In 2018, Warner's staff said the system was successful in not only detecting, but identifying the IP address of an attempt to hack the system from the other side of the country.

It was that success in 2018 that led Warner to Del. Eric Porterfield, who introduced and passed a bill in 2020 to provide that same right to those with disabilities.

"West Virginia is the first state to pass this and we hope it will become federal. It's a landmark legislation," said Del. Porterfield, who is legally blind.

The new system, 'Democracy Now,' is powered through a web-based browser that can be accessed by phone.

Del. Porterfield believes the technology will open a new door to those who have trouble getting to the polls.

"I'm the kind of guy that likes to go to the polls, but not everyone is like me. That's the great thing about America is we have different ideas. This is the gold standard for that person who has trouble getting to the polls and getting that fundamental right to vote."

He believes the electronic process will for the first time bring anonymity to the process by eliminating the need for poll workers to assist.

"We've really done something here to serve our people; a protected class of people were are marginalized more than anyone else in this country. We've done something historic in the fight to defeat ableism."

Sec. Warner's staff said voters can complete the form provided by their local county clerk's office and they will then be emailed instructions and a code to complete that process. Once they fill out the initial form, they'll be able to vote online in all of proceeding elections.

To learn more about the process, visit https://sos.wv.gov/elections/Pages/ElectronicVoting.aspx





Annie Moore

Multimedia Journalist

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