Randy Yohe Published

W.Va. League of Women Voters Offers 2024 Legislative Scorecard

A picture of voting booth tables with a display of the American flag.
There were bills in this and last year's legislature to produce a voters guide. Those bills went nowhere.
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The League of Women Voters of West Virginia has released their 2024 Legislative Scorecard. It compiles the votes from all the members of the West Virginia House of Delegates and state Senators on 26 bills that became law during this past legislative session to give an idea where they stand on issues.

Judy Ball, chair of the League’s Legislative Action Workgroup, spoke with Government Reporter Randy Yohe on the scorecard results.

Yohe: What is it that you hope to accomplish by putting out this scorecard?

Ball: West Virginia is one of several states that does not have a voter’s guide that comes out every year to help educate voters. And part of the mission of the League of Women Voters is voter education. So we decided that trying to give voters more information about the people who are representing them and how they’re being represented would be a valuable service. So, last year, we started this scorecard effort and had intended to continue it and this is the second time we’ve done it. And we made sure to get it out in time for this year’s election.

Yohe: The Secretary of State puts out a guide that gives you timetables and when you have to register and the things that you need to do to vote. That’s not the kind of voter’s guide you’re talking about, is it?

Ball: No. Voter’s guides in many states are something that has information about all the candidates that are going to be on the ballot. And oftentimes, a voter’s guide will include substantive information about what those candidates stand for that may be submitted by the candidates. But then it’s all compiled and published and sent out to, or made available to, voters in the state, perhaps online, perhaps it’s sent out in the mail. In the state of Oregon, for example, every voter in the state gets the voter’s guide in their mailbox. There was actually a bill in this year’s legislature to produce such a voter’s guide. There was a bill in last year’s legislature to produce such a voter’s guide. And those bills haven’t gone anywhere.

Yohe: Your scorecard compiles the votes of state Senators and Delegates on 26 bills that are significant to your organization, and they relate to certain policy areas. First of all is strengthening democracy. There are a number of voting and election related bills. What stands out there? I know you have bills you support and oppose. 

Ball: What stands out most to me is the bills that didn’t make it through. There were many attempts to try to make voting even harder in West Virginia than it already is. We were opposing, for example, the bill that requires photo IDs to go from the DMV and other agencies to the Secretary of State’s office. The reason we oppose it is we believe that this is an attempt to make photo ID necessary for voting. There were other bills in the legislature that would protect poll workers that didn’t pass. There were other bills to remove barriers to voting that didn’t pass. We supported, however, bills that would do things like update the contested election procedures and to ensure that party affiliation is consistent with a candidate’s voter registration. That’s putting some quality control into the system.

Yohe: Safeguarding equal rights is your next policy area. 

Ball: Yes, and one of the ones we oppose is the bill to not permit non-binary on birth certificates. And this is one of those bills that you have to wonder why it happened because non-binary isn’t an option on birth certificates, now. There was a bill to improve some data collection on fatalities and mortalities. Modifying the definition of sexual contact, to eliminate marriage as a defense for sexual assault, we definitely supported that. But there were other bills that didn’t make it through, the Crown Act, for example, died a horrible death in the Senate. And adding sexual orientation and gender identity to human rights law in West Virginia also didn’t make it through.

Yohe: Protecting children and families policy is next. That seems to be a big part of everybody’s agenda.

Ball: Even though this category has the most bills, this category probably has the most bills that never made it through the legislature. One of the principal bills in this category that we oppose is the state budget. Because things that are really critical in the state didn’t get attended to. There is not full funding for Medicaid. There was not full funding to take care of the foster care system or childcare. Additional funding for public education, all those things got left out. We supported the extra coverage for dental care and Medicaid. That’s a good thing, because dental services are really expensive, and people on Medicaid probably can’t afford them. We thought adding to the foster parent information system was a good thing. But that’s sort of nibbling around the edges of the problems in our foster care system.

Yohe: There’s a hue and cry out now that, after this federal education clawback was settled, these budget problems that you mentioned will be fixed in an expected upcoming special session. Are you satisfied with that?

Ball: I’m skeptical that that will actually happen. Let’s just take the evidence that came out of this legislative session. Our legislature spent an enormous amount of their 60 days debating things that were not the most consequential things for the population in West Virginia. I fully expect that the budget discussions will be the same. The legislature will spend a lot of time nibbling around the edges and not addressing the really big issues that are facing this state. I hope I’m wrong. 

Yohe: Your final category on policy areas is creating a sustainable future

Ball: We only ended up with two bills to even highlight in this year’s scorecard. There were more last year. They seem to be addressing local control issues, the legislature keeps trying to take power back from localities. And the things that we didn’t see that would have fallen under this category would have been strengthening environmental protections and bills to expand solar and to provide energy incentives. We didn’t get that from this legislature.