CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WV News) — West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner and 54 of the state’s 55 county clerks have come together to voice their opposition to a bill currently before the U.S. Senate — S.1 — which is also known as the For the People Act of 2021.

Warner penned a letter urging U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., to vote against the bill. The letter bears the signatures of every county clerk except for Monongalia County’s.

The bill, which has been a long-term legislative priority for Democrats, passed the House of Representatives on March 3 by a 220-to-210 vote to advance to the Senate.

According to a description of the For the People Act, written by the bill’s original sponsor, the purpose of the legislation is to “expand Americans’ access to the ballot box, reduce the influence of big money in politics, strengthen ethics rules for public servants and implement other anti-corruption measures for the purpose of fortifying our democracy, and for other purposes.”

However, Warner, a Republican, said the bill is unnecessary, would complicate the state’s election system and could create opportunities for voter fraud that don’t currently exist.

“It’s bad for West Virginia because we don’t have any problems with access — whether it’s registration or access to the polls. We in fact have more ways to vote than any other state in the nation,” he said. “We have early voting, in-person on election day. We have absentee voting ... and we offer electronic voting for voters with disabilities, in our military or who are overseas citizens.”

The state’s mobile voting application, which allows voters to receive, vote and return their ballots electronically, would likely be eliminated if S1 becomes law, Warner said.

“S1 would outlaw it and basically say you can’t do that,” he said. “S1, as it was passed by the House and introduced in the Senate, would get rid of electronic voting.”

Many other aspects of the bill would “complicate” the jobs of the state’s county clerks, Warner said.

“It would get rid of all the current voting equipment. They would have to start over with getting new equipment and training people and so forth,” he said. “It would require same-day registration, meaning that you could go and register and vote on the same day on election. I don’t want to say it’s an impossibility in West Virginia, but it’s impossible to verify that someone isn’t voting in one place and then going and doing it in another.”

The bill would also eliminate the practice of routinely purging the state’s voter lists of inactive voters, Warner said.

“Once you go on a list you’re going to stay on it perpetuity,” he said.

Elections are always about a balance between access and security, Warner said.

“You want to give people access, but when you open up the access you want to have a corresponding security component to that so that don’t open up access too far,” he said. “You don’t want 16-year-olds voting, you don’t noncitizen voting, you don’t want dead people voting.”

West Virginia’s election laws already achieve such a balance, Warner said.

“That’s why I think our laws are written very well and I don’t think there’s any reason to upend it with S1,” he said.

Harrison County Clerk John Spires, a Democrat, said he agrees with Warner’s assessment of the bill and was happy to sign the letter.

“My past experience before I was county clerk...I worked in elections so that’s really what I know best,” he said. “Our election laws and the way we do things (in West Virginia), we’re kind of at the forefront and we do a really good job.”

He and the other clerks he has spoken with are opposed to federal government dictating how states run their elections, Spries said.

“Mainly because we do a good job and not everywhere is the same,” he said. “It’s the reason that election laws vary, maybe what’s right for Oregon is not right for West Virginia and that type of thing. That’s kind of the main gist of it.”