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West Virginia, Mississippi To Defy 3-Year-Old Voter Access EO From Biden

West Virginia Secretary of State: '[We] will emphatically not give up our State’s duty to register voters ... to the Federal Government, nor will we accept voter registration forms collected by Federal agents'

West Virginia, Mississippi To Defy 3-Year-Old Voter Access EO From Biden

Secretaries of State from West Virginia and Mississippi, Mac Warner and Michael Watson, respectively, said their states will not accept voting applications gathered by federal agents in conjunction with a March 2021 executive order (EO) issued by President Joe Biden.

The EO on Promoting Access to Voting declares the right to vote as the foundation of democracy and cites "obstacles" faced by voter registration including "lack of information" and "barriers to access at polling places."

"Executive departments and agencies (agencies) should partner with State, local, Tribal, and territorial election officials to protect and promote the exercise of the right to vote, eliminate discrimination and other barriers to voting, and expand access to voter registration and accurate election information," the EO reads. "It is our duty to ensure that registering to vote and the act of voting be made simple and easy for all those eligible to do so."

Per the EO, agencies are encouraged to "consider ways to expand citizens' opportunities to register to vote" by providing information through agency materials including websites, online forms, social media platforms, and other "points of public access." Agencies are also encouraged to distribute and assist with voter registration and vote-by-mail application forms. However, the EO vaguely cites "any identity documents issued by the agency to members of the public" will satisfy state voter identification laws.

The EO also instructs the Attorney General to establish procedures to facilitate voter registration for "all eligible individuals in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons."

"Neither the U.S. Constitution nor the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) includes any such grant of executive authority to the President to order federal agency involvement with state-level voter registration processes," wrote Watson in a Wednesday op-ed. "Any actions to reconfigure states’ voter registration duties and responsibilities must be authorized by Congress or the states themselves."

Watson cites Section 9 of Biden's EO, which establishes procedures for educating and facilitating voter registration for felons and further requires the United States Marshals Service to modify intergovernmental agreements and jail contracts.

"These efforts are not only an intrusion into state matters but are a misuse of federal revenue to register potentially ineligible felons and/or illegal immigrants," Watson wrote, noting he had submitted a letter to Biden requesting the EO be rescinded due to the president's lack of constitutional authority and lack of congressional approval. "You may be surprised, but we received no response."

Last month, Watson sent a letter to United States Attorney General Merrick Garland requesting further information on the scope of Biden's EO as it relates to Mississippi while also reiterating his concern for Biden's "lack of authority and threat to the integrity" of the state's elections."

After filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, Watson was informed his request was "overly broad."

"I then had the chance to ask a White House official about the plans submitted by each agency to carry out the illegal executive order," he continued. "I was told those plans are not public, and they never intended for them to be public. So much for transparency."

Watson declared the federal government should not be in the business of "registering and turning out voters" on behalf of states.

"To keep our republic, now, more than ever, we need an engaged electorate. Election laws should be handled by the states as designed by the Constitution," Watson concluded.

Warner similarly raised concern with Biden's EO, adding he believed it was in violation of the 10th Amendment, which reserves powers not expressly given to the federal government in the Constitution to the states and Article 1 Section 4, which notes election processes will be left for state legislatures to decide.

“West Virginia will emphatically not give up our State’s duty to register voters in a nonpartisan manner to the Federal Government, nor will we accept voter registration forms collected by Federal agents," Warner wrote. "[The] White House overtaking of State responsibilities is something we will fight all the way to the Supreme Court."

Warner also noted the White House had not consulted with state election officials while developing plans to implement Biden's EO.

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