The 2020 election cycle is nearing its end. In just a few short weeks, West Virginians will cast their votes to select the next crop of individuals to lead the Mountain State into the future.
Everything from the state’s governor, to the local sheriff will be determined on November 3. One such position that remains in question is that of West Virginia’s next secretary of state. Most people are familiar with the names of the candidates. On the Republican side is incumbent Secretary Mac Warner. The Democratic nominee is former two-term secretary of state, Natalie Tennant. To put it another way, those are the two individuals applying for the position. But what exactly is the position? The state-level secretary of state is vastly different from their federal counterpart. There are no foreign policy concerns or good will pilgrimages to distant nations. The concern of West Virginia’s secretary of state is solely the business of the state.
According to the secretary of state’s website, “The secretary of state serves as chief elections officer of West Virginia and oversees the election process throughout the state along with the recording of official campaign financial records and candidate filings. The secretary of state is a member of the state election commission, the board of public works and the state armory board.”
This is one aspect of the job which Tennant believes is of the utmost importance. While speaking with the WV Daily News, Tennant commented on Warner’s decision to not send absentee ballot applications to all of the state’s registered voters; an application for an absentee ballot is not the same as the ballot itself. This was something that Warner had previously done for the primary elections before opting to not repeat the same process for the general election. Tennant pointed out that several county clerks and commissions across the state have chosen to take this action despite Warner’s reluctance to do so.
“A lot of the clerks don’t support that decision,” Tennant said. “And really, it’s (not sending absentee ballot applications) a form of voter suppression.”
The SOS website further explains the duties and responsibilities of the position by stating, “The secretary of state authorizes and issues licenses to private detectives, investigators and security agencies. The secretary is the official administrator of the Uniform Commercial Code and the farm lien program, and is responsible for the administration of the ‘Solicitation of Charitable Funds Act.’ The secretary of state acts as the statutory attorney-in-fact for service of process for corporations, limited liability companies and limited partnerships for state agencies. The secretary of state’s office registers corporations and limited liability companies, both profit and nonprofit, issuing certificates of incorporation for the creation of all domestic corporations and certificates of authority to foreign corporations to transact business in West Virginia. The secretary of state’s office houses the code of state rules and maintains filing of all rules, grievance decisions, ethics opinions, meeting notices, and also maintains a record of all enrolled bills originated and passed in the legislature. The secretary of state is the keeper of the Seals of the State.”
Any successful candidate for the role of secretary of state must have a keen understanding of West Virginia code, and be above reproach in the execution of their position. This is another area where Tennant believes that her experience and performance as secretary of state are more in line with the needs and wants of West Virginians. Tennant cited Warner’s alleged illegal firing of 16 SOS office employees as evidence of this.
“On day-one, he (Warner) illegally fired 16 people,” Tennant said. “He didn’t interview them, or even talk to them. Just fired them…really good people. And some of them had been working there for years.”
Tennant told the story of Nancy Harrison, a 10-year employee of the SOS office who had been terminated by Warner, in a recent campaign ad. A wrongful termination suit that was brought against the SOS office for the firings was settled by the state for $4 million, representing the largest settlement ever in West Virginia.
The third debate between Tennant and Warner, which was held on Thursday, October 15, and sponsored by the Stubblefield Institute, is available for viewing on both Facebook and YouTube. These issues, as well as many more, are addressed in-depth by both candidates.
Election Day in West Virginia and the United States is Tuesday, November 3.