CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner says voter registration information in the Mountain State was not affected by Russian and Iranian efforts to influence the 2020 presidential election.
“I’m here to assure voters that West Virginia is not one of those states. There has been no interference here. There’s been no manipulation of data and we’ve been preparing for this since 2016. We use the phrase ‘protect, detect and correct,’ and we’ve been using that with our county clerks to be prepared for moments just such as this,” Warner said.
According to Warner, open sources identified four states, Pennsylvania, Florida, Arizona and Alaska, as some of the states involved in the attempted interference.
Warner said yesterday’s briefing by Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe was the “fastest ever disclosure” of information regarding election interference. Yesterday, Ratcliffe openly acknowledged foreign actors were caught interfering with the election by obtaining voter registration data.
The secretary of state said the information was used to intimidate or suppress voters via social media sometimes based on party affiliation. Warner also noted Ratcliffe referred to the incident by saying the two countries “obtained or accessed information,” not necessarily the word “breach.”
“The goal seems to be to create chaos, to cause confusion, to sow discord, and to cast doubt on the legitimacy of U.S. elections,” Warner said.
While West Virginia was not identified in the incident, Warner did say this was an “ongoing situation” and all states are potential targets.
“They are using this to change the minds of the electorates, not necessarily to try to change votes,” Warner said. “They are doing this to cause social unrest if possible.”
According to Warner, West Virginia elections are secure and the state has had more than 141,000 requests for absentee ballots and roughly 99,000 of those have already been cast in the election in addition to the more than 20,000 people who voted in person yesterday, Wed. Oct. 22, in the state’s first day of early voting. Warner encouraged everyone to participate in the election.
“I want everybody to feel comfortable in voting and to know that you’re votes will count,” Warner said.
Warner urged everyone to “use critical thinking” to avoid spreading disinformation and to report emails that look unusual and said not to click on any links.
Warner said his office has been in close coordination with the Department of Homeland Security, the Cyber and Infrastructure Security Agency, the FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office, the West Virginia Fusion Center, and the National Guard. He says he has also been in weekly contact with county clerks and had conversations with Secretaries of State across the country.
“I want to send a message to our adversaries that we will not stand down, that we will not be intimidated and that we, the American people and the voters here in West Virginia, will decide the outcome of this election and pick our leaders, not any foreign adversaries,” Warner said.
Warner says if anyone sees anything that appears nefarious, they can report it to the West Virginia Secretary of State Investigation Unit‘s fraud hotline at 877-FRAUD-WV.