Kanawha commission lays out goals for legislative session

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As the regular legislative session gets underway, the Kanawha County Commission has a few items it would like to see become law.

The commission spent meetings before the session discussing its wants for 2020, including increasing voter access.

Lesli Forbes, the commission’s legislative liaison, said the commission wants to create an “ease to voters.”

“We want to make sure that there is not anyone who wants to come out to vote and are turned away,” she said.

The main proposal backed by the commission is allowing same-day voter registration. Forbes noted the practice is allowed in 18 other states, which have higher voter turnout rates than West Virginia.

“Research shows we’ll get more voters to turn out if we allow the ease to come to the polls,” she said.

An alternative is reducing the time required to register to vote from 21 days before an election to seven days prior.

“I think we can look at that and make it a shorter amount of time,” Forbes said. “If there’s a new business that comes to town or someone moves here, we want to make sure those people aren’t turned away.”

Other election goals include rotating ballot positions, allowing early voting locations to be registered once rather than every election cycle, and giving counties the chance to operate mobile voting units during the early voting period.

Another major goal for the commission is providing a better retirement system for emergency dispatchers.

“We have a really high turnover rate at the 911 center for the telecommunicators that operate the phone,” Forbes said.

“We’d like to make sure we give them a better incentive to make it their career and stay.”

The legislative session goes through March 7.