As West Virginians head to the polls today, it's important to remember that if election fraud is detected, it should be reported to the proper authorities.
"People know when it's not right, and we like for them to reach out if they see something, they need to say something," said U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin.
He added that if anyone sees election fraud occurring — such as attempts to buy votes or suppress the votes of others — they should call the FBI or the U.S. Attorney's Office in their district. Other instances of election fraud the U.S. Attorney's office highlighted included intimidating or bribing voters, altering vote tallies, stuffing ballot boxes and marking ballots for voters against their wishes or without their input.
"It also contains special protections for the rights of voters and provides that they can vote free from acts that intimidate or harass them," a release from the U.S. Attorney explained. "For example, actions of persons designed to interrupt or intimidate voters at polling places by questioning or challenging them, or by photographing or videotaping them, under the pretext that these are actions to uncover illegal voting may violate federal voting rights law. Further, federal law protects the right of voters to mark their own ballot or to be assisted by a person of their choice."
Goodwin invited the public to contact his office at the following telephone numbers: 1-800-659-8726 or 304-345-2200. Complaints about ballot access problems or discrimination can also be made directly to the Civil Rights Division's Voting Section in Washington, D.C., at 1-800-253-3931 or 202-307-2767.
"Hopefully this year will be very orderly, and we won't have many calls at all," Goodwin said. "That's what we're always hoping for."
West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said her office deploys staff each election to help answer polling questions and deal with potential fraud.
"It's just part of our efforts to deter, detect and prevent any election fraud that someone might think they would want to try and want to try to get away with," Tennant said. "This is folks on the ground — boots on the ground, literally — and we've seen the success that we have had over these last six elections."
Goodwin said the number of fraud complaints his office receives varies from election year to election year, but peaks during general elections. He said some years the office receives as many as a dozen complaints.
"Every citizen must be able to vote without interference or discrimination and have that vote counted without it being stolen because of fraud," Goodwin said. "The Department of Justice will act promptly and aggressively to protect the integrity of the election process."