The Sept. 27 press release was issued in response to a legal challenge filed in federal U.S. District Court against SoS Warner seeking to "prevent Warner from placing Donald Trump's name on the 2024 Primary Election ballot. Texas resident John A. Castro filed the lawsuit in West Virginia. Warner's response was a hard "no." Specifically, Warner stated, "Every eligible candidate, including Donald Trump, has the constitutional right to have their name" on the ballot. Warner emphasized that the voters should decide who is on the ballot, not the courts.
Then, on Thursday, Warner sent a letter to "five of the country's largest online platforms," warning online platforms that his office would "enforce all campaign finance laws triggered by online companies' activities that do not uniformly apply to or equally impact candidates or political parties in West Virginia." Warner stated all social media platforms must remain neutral regarding election content. The letters were sent to Facebook/Meta, Google, Twitter (X), Truth Social, and Rumble. The two-page letter sent to Facebook is pictured below.
Interestingly, Warner notes the algorithmic influence of companies on voter behavior, almost certainly referencing companies like Google in his letter. Warner writes, "Another issue of concern is unilateral and covert online activities that impact search results, visibility of certain news reports, and the burying of information" without regard for First Amendment implications. He references Zuckerberg's interview with podcaster Joe Rogan, where Zuckerberg admits "Facebook suppressed the Hunter Biden Laptop story" in an effort to influence voter behavior. As reported by UncoverDC on Sept. 22, Google may have "swayed millions of voters in one direction," per Dr. Robert Epstein's research on the effect of Google's allegedly biased algorithms.
UncoverDC asked Secretary of State Warner to comment on his efforts to keep elections fair and hold platforms accountable when they stray from being neutral purveyors of online information concerning candidates and elections. Warner responded:
"Just as banks shouldn't control how one spends their money, and cell phone and utility companies shouldn't be allowed to moderate their service depending on their alignment with a customer's political beliefs, online and social media companies should not be allowed to treat candidates and political parties differently because of political ideology. When online services treat candidates differently or promote one party over another, the delta amounts to a campaign contribution and becomes subject to campaign finance rules."
Notably, Warner also announced on Sept. 19 the conviction of a W. Virginia man who was found guilty of three counts of illegal voting. Jack Vaughan pleaded guilty in the 2020 General Election to having "voted in two states using absentee ballots—once in Florida and again in West Virginia." At the time of the offense, it was a misdemeanor; however, state legislation passed in 2022 "now makes illegal voting a felony" in the state. Due to his fortunate timing, Vaughan only has to pay $100 plus court costs for the misdemeanor crime. According to the press release, Vaughan's was the third conviction in 2023 for illegal voting in the 2020 election. Warner stated, "If you're going to cheat in an election in West Virginia, we are going to catch you and see that you are prosecuted."