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 Tennant Requests Governor Add Election Law Changes To Special Session

7/2/2010

    Charleston, W.Va - West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant is calling on Governor Joe Manchin and the West Virginia Legislature to fix a lengthy and conflicting succession law passed by the Legislature in 1990.

    “There was a much quicker election process in place before 1990 and the Legislature saw fit at that time to substitute a longer process and change the law – and that puts in place our current situation,” Tennant said in a video statement posted on the Secretary of State’s website, www.wvsos.com.

    As the state’s chief election officer, Tennant said she personally wants West Virginians to vote on the successor to Sen. Byrd in a special election, but she said she is bound by legal precedent at this time to recommend the Governor appoint a successor to Sen. Byrd followed by a special election in 2012 to fill the unexpired term.

    “I understand that people can believe that the Legislature did not intend such a lengthy delay when the process was changed in 1990.  Nevertheless, the Supreme Court interpreted the Legislature’s intent in 1994 and the Court’s decision controls the law until either the Court makes a new ruling or the law is amended by the Legislature,” Tennant said.

    Tennant said she personally supports a special election to take place in November, but without legislative initiative or a new court challenge to the existing law, she is legally obligated to the decision she has conveyed to the Governor.
 
    “I do not have the authority to make the law into whatever I personally prefer it to be,” Tennant said.

    “Therefore, I request that the Governor call a special session to address the state’s succession law, not only as it relates to a U.S. Senate vacancy but a Gubernatorial one as well.”

    Tennant pointed out that her office has taken the lead in other initiatives to help West Virginians vote including satellite precincts, vote by mail, and a very successful pilot program that allowed overseas citizens and military members cast a ballot using a secure internet connection.

    The entire statement can be seen above.

FULL TEXT OF STATEMENT FOLLOWS BELOW

    “There continues to be questions of how and when the replacement for Senator Byrd should take place. 

    “For me there is a distinct line between how I personally feel and what I can legally do.

    “I personally believe that the voters of the state should be allowed to elect a successor to Senator Byrd sooner than November of 2012.  

    “I personally would support any attempt by the Legislature to change the current law. If the state legislature considers changing the law, my staff and I will work with the lawmakers to develop a law that works for West Virginia.
       
    “Constitutionally this Office and I cannot interpret law written by the Legislature according to my own personal opinion of how the process should work. 

    “There was a much quicker election process in place before 1990 and the Legislature saw fit at that time to substitute a longer process and change the law; which puts in place our current situation. 

    “Also, constitutionally, this Office and I cannot overrule or ignore decisions of the W.Va. Supreme Court of Appeals interpreting the intent of amendments.  

    “I understand that people can believe that the Legislature did not intend such a lengthy delay when the process was changed in 1990.  Nevertheless, the Supreme Court interpreted the Legislature’s intent in 1994 and the Court’s decision controls the law until either the Court makes a new ruling or the law is amended by the Legislature.

    “Again, as a citizen and as an elected official, I want the people to have their say as quickly as possible. 
“But I do not have the authority to make the law into whatever I personally prefer it to be.”

Contact:

Jake Glance
(304) 558-6000
jglance@wvsos.com