State Election Commissioners on Wednesday authorized testing of an upgraded voting system that will allow clerks in 33 counties to reconfigure the ballot order, after West Virginia lawmakers mandated that change earlier this year.
The updated version of the ExpressVote System will allow for customization of ballots, needed under legislation passed in March changing the ballot location for nonpartisan judicial elections.
Under the legislation (HB 2600), beginning with the May 2020 primary election, judicial elections will appear on the ballot after national and state offices and ahead of county offices.
Since judicial elections became nonpartisan in 2016, races for Supreme Court, circuit court, family court judges, and magistrates have appeared at the foot of the ballot, along with other nonpartisan elections, such as county school boards.
Heeding concerns that voters might drop off before reaching the judicial elections, legislators voted to reconfigure the ballot order.
Donald Kersey, Elections Division director for the Secretary of State’s office, said the upgrade is needed in 33 counties where current systems lack the ability to customize ballots.
The upgrade also includes enhanced security features, which the commissioners discussed Wednesday in executive session via teleconference with representatives of Election Systems & Software, the manufacturer of the ExpressVote System voting machines.
“We want to make sure we’re doing all we can to protect our voters,” Kersey said.
The system upgrade has yet to receive certification from the federal Elections Assistance Commission, but ES&S officials said that certification is expected to come down later this month or early in October.
Once that certification is obtained and testing of the upgraded system is completed by consultants retained by the Elections Commission, commissioners will meet again to give final approval to the change.