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Natalie Tennant: The results-oriented approach has paid off

Oct. 21, 2012 @ 10:45 PM

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is one of a series of columns written by candidates in contested races in the Nov. 6 general election.

The last three-and-a-half years in the Secretary of State's Office have seen tremendous accomplishments, challenges and forward thinking.

I have become known as our state's most transparent office holder through an open and engaging government that has cut through bureaucratic red tape, saved businesses money through efficiency and online services and fought election fraud for clean, honest and accessible elections.

My results-oriented, problem-solving approach has resulted in increases of online business filings, reduction of fees for late filers, greater protection against business identity theft, improved charity and business database searches and online chats and text messaging to better serve citizens of the state.

I have fought to protect our right to vote at the same time leading investigations that have lead to more convictions of election law violations than any other Secretary of State. There has been no other secretary as tough on election fraud as I am, and my record proves it.

I worked to make it easier for people in outlying areas of their counties to cast a ballot during the early voting period by making a voting location available in their community. Through my leadership and forward thinking, West Virginia has led the nation when it comes to safe and secure online voting for our military members serving overseas. Making sure our military has accessible voting has been a priority of mine.

When West Virginia was faced with unprecedented demands in filling the vacancy left by the death of Sen. Robert C. Byrd, I oversaw a special election that ensured the voters of West Virginia could fairly choose their representative on a shortened timeline.

Since most of West Virginia's economy is from small businesses, I have always felt that it is important for businesses to be able to focus on their product and not their paper work. That is why I have streamlined our efforts and cut through the red tape when it comes to required reporting. For the last three years, the online filing for annual reports has nearly doubled each year. That saves both the business and state time and money.

We've developed online database searches for business entities. It provides resources not only for businesses but also for chambers of commerce or other business organizations or development centers because they have the ability to find out how many or what types of businesses are in a particular region. Our charity database allows a citizen to research a charity before they donate.

I served on a national panel with other secretaries of state to develop best practices to protect businesses from identity theft. This office implemented a Business ID Theft Email Blast that whenever a change is made to an online business record, an alert will be sent to the email address on record for that business.

When needed, I have kept the Secretary of State's office open on many holidays or stayed open later so businesses could meet filing deadlines.

This past legislative session we had legislation passed that lowers the fees on businesses who file their annual reports late. Late fees lowered from $100 to $50 for most companies, non-profits lowered to $25.

Through live webcasts, the Secretary of State's office offers a live, unfiltered and unrehearsed view of state government with the thought that the openness brings more people into the political process and shows how their government works.

I will continue to push West Virginia forward. I am not one who sits on the sidelines when there is work to be done. We may not always agree, but we can agree that West Virginia deserves our best efforts.

Natalie Tennant, a resident of Charleston, is Democratic candidate for West Virginia secretary of state.

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