CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Republican candidate for West Virginia secretary of state said Monday that incumbent Natalie Tennant is taking too much credit for the spate of election-fraud convictions in Southern West Virginia in recent years.
On the campaign trail, Tennant has said her office has investigated more fraud cases than any previous secretary of state.
But Brian Savilla, her GOP opponent, said Tennant's office has done little to combat election fraud. The U.S. Attorney's Office has done the bulk of the work, he said.
"They're handling the work for a statewide office," said Savilla, a former Putnam County substitute teacher who was elected to the House of Delegates in 2010. "She's fallen extremely short."
Savilla, who met with Gazette editors Monday in Charleston, said Tennant has reduced the number of election-fraud investigators from three to one. Tennant's office doesn't always investigate complaints effectively, he alleged.
In January, Lincoln County voters notified Tennant's office that former county Assessor Jerry Weaver was running for sheriff, even though he had been convicted of vote-buying in 2005.
Tennant did nothing to keep Weaver's name off the ballot, Savilla said. Weaver later withdrew from the sheriff's race. Tennant has said she had no authority to keep Weaver out of the race.
"If you talk to people in Lincoln County, they had no success with her office," Savilla said.
Savilla said he would hire Putnam County assistant prosecutor Steve Connolly as his chief of staff to bolster election fraud investigations and convictions.
On other issues, Savilla said he strongly supports voter identification laws. He said future voter registration cards in West Virginia should include photos to stop someone from "pretending to be someone else and casting a vote."
"It wouldn't disenfranchise anyone," Savilla said. "It would be a quick, simple fix."
He declined to say how the state would pay for photo IDs or estimate the cost of such a program. In West Virginia, voters must present a photo ID when they first register -- or the first time to vote after they register by mail.