A software upgrade that will allow voting systems used in 33 West Virginia counties to rearrange the ballot order to comply with a new law moving nonpartisan judicial elections higher up on May primary election ballots was approved Tuesday by the State Election Commission.
The updated version of the ExpressVote System, produced by Elections Systems and Software, will allow county clerks to customize ballots, necessary under legislation passed by the Legislature in March changing the ballot location for nonpartisan judicial elections.
Under the new law, beginning with the May 2020 primary election, judicial elections will appear on the ballot after national, state and legislative races, and ahead of county offices and other nonpartisan races.
The change was prompted by concern from some legislators that, on long primary ballots, some voters might be failing to vote in judicial elections, which, in 2016 and 2018, were at the foot of the ballot, and frequently were on the back of a two-sided ballot.
Andrew Parker, one of two information technology consultants hired by the commission to test the software, told commissioners Tuesday that it meets all state requirements for electronic voting systems.
“The 6100 checked off all its boxes,” he said of the software program.
The new software also has enhanced security measures, including the option of requiring a USB “key” to unlock the system before it can boot up.
Also Tuesday, the commission approved a request from Anthony Vitale, of Martinsburg, to file paper campaign financial reports for his 2018 House of Delegates campaign.
Under state law, since 2016, most candidates must file campaign financial disclosures with the Secretary of State’s Office electronically, unless they receive a hardship exemption from the commission.
In a hand-written letter to the commission, Vitale said he does not have access to a computer, and that several attempts to access the online Campaign Finance Reporting System using his cellphone had proved unsuccessful.
According to the letter, Vitale dropped out of the race for health issues, did not raise or spend any money and needs only to file a final report to close the account.
The commission also went into closed-door executive session for about five minutes Tuesday, but it took no action on any matters discussed upon returning to the open meeting.
In September, U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart and Secretary of State Mac Warner disclosed an FBI investigation of an attempt to hack into West Virginia’s new mobile voting system for overseas military during the 2018 election.
Published reports have since indicated the attempted hack was part of a computer cybersecurity class at the University of Michigan that was trying to uncover vulnerabilities in electronic voting systems around the United States.