CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) – Republican lawmakers in West Virginia want to increase penalties for illegal voting in elections.
House Bill 4311 would make it a felony to “knowingly and knowingly” vote twice in an election or reject or alter ballots in an attempt to mislead voters. Crime is a misdemeanor.
The bill passed the House of Representatives without objection on Thursday. Six delegates were absent.
There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in West Virginia or anywhere else in the United States, despite former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the last federal election was “beaten.” steal”. Most GOP-elected officials, however, have increased their efforts since the last US election to tighten voting laws.
During debate on the bill in the House of Representatives, Representative Mike Pushkin, Democrat, asked if there have been cases where people have been accused of voting illegally.
“We heard testimony about that fact,” said Republican Representative Tom Fast, who is answering questions about the bill. Fast said he heard testimony about illegal voting cases on the House Judiciary Committee.
Pushkin, who also serves on the House Judiciary Committee, said he has not heard any testimony about cases of voter fraud. He said it didn’t exist, and given that, Pushkin said he wasn’t sure what effect the bill would have.
“We’re giving a stricter penalty for something we haven’t really had any instances of, but that’s fine,” he said.
After President Joe Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 election, West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner said he supported the state’s participation in a lawsuit challenging election results in states where he was elected. Biden won.
Warner, a Republican, showed up at a “March for Trump” rally in Charleston after the election, where he appeared to be holding up a “Stop Stealing” sign.
Pushkin said if the aim was to restore people’s confidence in their election, he would support it.
In an email to The Associated Press on Thursday, Warner said House Bill 4311 is the legislation he is asking for to “continue our nationally recognized and bipartisan efforts to eliminate barrier to the ballot box for all West Virginia voters.”
“Confidence in elections in West Virginia has never been higher because we care about transparent, safe and secure elections,” he said.
In response to Pushkin’s comments, he said: “Political attacks should be saved for the campaign roadmap.”
Warner said his office is prohibited by law from discussing any ongoing election fraud investigation.
Mike Queen, Warner’s deputy chief of staff, pointed to bulletins on the Secretary of State’s website including the case of illegal voter registration in Kanawha County and a former Morgantown resident who admitted to forging signatures. in an attempt to become a City Council candidate.
An Associated Press assessment of every potential voter fraud case in the six battleground states that Trump disputes found less than 475 — a number that will make no difference in the 2020 presidential election.
Ahead of the November 2020 election, Warner defended the election process in the state, calling it “safe, secure, and fair” after Trump said a West Virginia mail carrier was “selling votes.” .”
Postal worker Thomas Cooper pleaded guilty in July 2020 to attempting election fraud and damaging mail after changing five voting requirements from Democrat to Republican. He also altered three other ballot applications by circling the word “Republican” in ink a different color than that used on the forms, according to Warner’s office.
Attempted fraud was a “unique instance of a postal carrier altering an absentee ballot application, not a ballot,” Warner said in a statement at the time.
“Voters should trust that this election will be safe, secure and fair,” Warner said.
Election-related trials in West Virginia have for decades been dominated by elected officials, not citizens.
During the 1980s, a federal-state task force handled more than two dozen election-related cases in Mingo County, including a former sheriff, a district commissioner, a school board president, and a school board president. and a Democratic Party chairman.
In neighboring Logan County in the 1990s, two state legislators, a district judge and a circuit judge, among others, went to prison for corruption charges including buying votes. And in 2004, the Logan County sheriff and a city sheriff resigned and pleaded guilty to exchanging money for votes.
In 2012, a former Lincoln County sheriff and county clerk pleaded guilty to charges that they tried to flood the county’s 2010 Democratic primary with fraudulent absentee ballots. .
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https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2022/02/03/west-virginia-lawmakers-advance-bill-to-enhance-voter-fraud-penalty/ West Virginia Lawmakers Ahead of Bill to Strengthen Voter Fraud Penalties – CBS Pittsburgh