CHARLESTON - During the special legislative session, West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner has encouraged the governor to include the opportunity for the Secretary of State's Office to use incoming special revenue to his office that exceeds the costs of Business Division services to cover the cost of upgrading the Statewide Voter Registration System (SRVS).
The Legislature began its special session Monday.
The proposed SVRS upgrade includes new technical capabilities that will help county clerks and their voter registration staff efficiently implement the Automated Voter Registration (AVR) program. The upgrades will also include state-of-the-art geographic information system (GIS) technology that will allow counties to accurately determine voters' correct districts and precincts. The GIS technology also has the capability of assisting the state with the arduous process of redistricting following the census in 2020.
The estimated cost of the SVRS upgrade is $1.5 million, but Warner said in a release he is not asking for any additional funding from the Legislature. Rather, he is simply requesting permission to allocate revenue that exceeds the costs to run the Business Division of the office. Specifically, due to the WVSOS Business & Licensing Division's great success over the last two years, including the national award winning online Business Wizard and implementation of expedited services for same-day business and licensing processing, WVSOS has sufficient revenue to cover the cost of the upgrade. However, state agencies can only spend appropriated funds for the purpose designated by the Legislature and the previous WVSOS appropriations bill did not include the SVRS upgrade.
"My office has a duty to ensure that the State's Voter Registration System provides counties the necessary capabilities to efficiently manage the voter registration process," Warner said. "During the 2019 regular legislative session, it became clear that the counties will benefit greatly from new technology in order to effectively implement the Automatic Voter Registration law. Upgrading the SVRS now will provide our office enough time to develop the updated system in accordance with West Virginia laws, and will provide the county clerks sufficient time to learn the new functions before the new law goes into effect."
The Legislature pushed back the implementation date for AVR this past session after it became clear the state does not have the infrastructure to do it properly. AVR was originally approved in 2016 but has had to push back implementation each year since.