Senate Bill No. 496
(By Senators Palumbo and Plymale)
[Introduced February 11, 2011; referred to the Committee on Government Organization; and then to the Committee on the Judiciary.]
A BILL to amend and reenact §3-1A-6 of the Code of West Virginia,
1931, as amended, relating to emergency powers of the Secretary of State.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That §3-1A-6 of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be amended and reenacted to read as follows:
ARTICLE 1A. STATE ELECTION COMMISSION AND SECRETARY OF STATE.
§3-1A-6. Powers and duties of Secretary of State; exercise of powers by appointees.
(a) The Secretary of State shall be the chief election official of the state. Except for those rules required by the provisions of section five of this article to be promulgated by the commission, the Secretary of State shall have the authority may, after consultation with the State Election Commission, of which he or she is a member, to make, amend and rescind such orders and to promulgate legislative rules, in accordance with the provisions of chapter twenty-nine-a of this code, as may be necessary to standardize and make effective the provisions of this chapter. All election officials, county commissions, clerks of county commissions, clerks of circuit courts, boards of ballot commissioners, election commissioners and poll clerks shall abide by any orders that may be issued and any legislative rules that may be promulgated by the Secretary of State and the commission.
(b) The Secretary of State also shall have authority to may require collection and report of statistical information and to require other reports by county commissions, clerks of county commissions and clerks of circuit courts.
(c) The Secretary of State shall also advise with election officials; furnish to the election officials a sufficient number of indexed copies of the current election laws of West Virginia and the administrative orders and rules issued or promulgated thereunder; investigate the administration of election laws, frauds and irregularities in any registration or election; report violations of election laws to the appropriate prosecuting officials; and prepare an annual report.
(d) The Secretary of State shall also have the power to may administer oaths and affirmations, issue subpoenas for the attendance of witnesses, issue subpoena duces tecum to compel the production of books, papers, records, registration records and other evidence and fix the time and place for hearing any matters relating to the administration and enforcement of this chapter, or the rules promulgated by the State Election Commission or by the Secretary of State as the chief election official of the state. In case of disobedience to a subpoena or subpoena duces tecum, he or she may invoke the aid of any circuit court in requiring the attendance, evidence and testimony of witnesses and the production of papers, books, records, registration records and other evidence.
(e) (1) The Secretary of State shall also have the power may, after consultation with the Secretary of the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, to implement emergency procedures and rules to ensure that all eligible voters have the opportunity to cast a valid ballot and to uphold the integrity of an election in the event case of an international, national, state, local ,or general emergency, or of natural disaster as declared by the President or his or her designee, the Governor of this state or his or her designee, or a court of competent jurisdiction which renders it impossible or impracticable to follow standard voting procedures in all or part of the state, terrorist attack, war or general emergency, if any of which occur during or immediately preceding an election.
(2) For purposes of this subsection, a "general emergency" means circumstances preventing the casting of ballots in one or more voting precincts. The chief judge of the circuit court of the county where the casting of ballots is being prevented must declare by order that a general emergency exists.”
(3) The Secretary of State may designate alternative methods and procedures to handle absentee voting applications and ballots. The Secretary of State shall take reasonable steps to provide voters covered under the Uniformed and Overseas Voters Absentee Voting Act ( 42 U.S.C. Section 1973ff et seq.) timely notice of any special procedure or requirement under this section.
(f) All powers and duties vested in the Secretary of State pursuant to this article may be exercised by appointees of the Secretary of State at his or her discretion, but the Secretary of State shall be responsible for their acts.
NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to clarify the Secretary of State’s authority for emergency procedures in elections in the case of a national emergency and provide notice of any modifications to absentee voters under the Uniformed Overseas Voters Absentee Voting Act.
Strike-throughs indicate language that would be stricken from the present law, and underscoring indicates new language that would be added.