As we approach the second session of the 84th West Virginia Legislature, we at the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia (ACLU-WV) are preparing again to protect constitutional liberties. The First Amendment, as well as rights to equal protections under the law, due process, and privacy are all at stake.

We will support policies that protect civil liberties of all West Virginians, particularly the most vulnerable, and we will oppose those that deny the promise of the Bill of Rights to all. 

One of our top priorities will be bail reform. We’ll seek legislation that balances public safety with people’s basic freedoms, meaning their ability to live and work and to not be confined to a cell without being found guilty of a crime. We’ll work to end cash bail, a system that enables those with financial means to escape pretrial imprisonment while keeping the poor locked up. This system costs the state enormous amounts of money and disrupts the lives of those who are accused – but not yet convicted – of a crime. 

We’ll demand more transparency in policing and support the creation of a statewide cooperative review board. These boards allow the public to hold officers accountable for actions taken while on duty. We will also continue our efforts on civil asset forfeiture, encouraging the creation of a database of all goods and money that the government seizes from people accused of crimes. 

Juvenile justice reform is another top concern. We’ll back legislation that promotes a safe and harassment-free school environment, one that prioritizes comprehensive mental and behavioral health services for our students over treating them like criminals.

We’ll promote democracy with legislation for ranked-choice elections for the state judiciary, allowing a true representation of West Virginians’ choices to be reflected in election outcomes. This system allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference. If a candidate receives more than half of the first-choice votes, that candidate wins. If no one receives a majority of first-choice votes, the candidate with the fewest first choices is eliminated. The voters who ranked the eliminated candidate first then have their second-choice votes distributed to other candidates. This continues until a candidate has a majority of the active votes.

We’ll also defend democracy by expanding an amendment to the state Constitution to allow dual employment of most state employees -- who are typically civic-minded and knowledgeable -- so that they may serve in the Legislature. Currently, no state employees are permitted to serve in the Legislature.

As part of our support for marginalized communities who lack protections, we will advocate for passage of the WV Fairness Act, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s Human Rights Act.

We’re also ready to fight back against the latest attack on bodily autonomy -- a rumored “born-alive bill.” This legislation falsely portrays the reality of abortion services and invites government intrusion into the doctor-patient relationship.

Finally, to help you make sense of it all, we’ll track legislation and keep an updated list on our website. At the end of the session we will create a scorecard on legislation that received a floor vote and on which we took a public position.

We’re ready to make real, positive change in West Virginia, and we hope you’ll join us in this fight.