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 Secretary of State's Ballot Withstands Court Challenge

9/24/2010

    Charleston, W.Va. – Kanawha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey today said the ballot set out by the Secretary of State’s Office follows precedent and state code, and denied an injunction filed by the Republican State Executive Committee that asked for the ballot to not be used. 

    Judge Bailey said that she would not have hesitated to grant the injunction if she believed the ballot to be illegal. 

    The ballot includes a straight party option that would apply to both the regular general election and the special United States Senate election being held for the unexpired term of Senator Robert C. Byrd. The regular general election and the special senate election are on the same ballot. 

    Judge Bailey said the Republican’s claim that their party would “suffer irreparable harm” if straight party voting is applied to both elections is “speculative.” 

    The GOP also wanted a separate ballot for the special US Senate election. Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant has argued that having more than one ballot would confuse voters. 

    Judge Bailey agreed. 

    Tennant also has said she relied on legal precedent and case law when deciding on the single ballot design. She pointed out that in 1958, when there was also a special election for an unexpired term for United States Senator on the ballot, straight party ticket voting was an option and there was only one ballot. Tennant said that ballot was developed under Republican Governor Cecil Underwood and Republican Secretary of State Helen Holt. 

    Tennant said she is pleased with the Judge’s decision, and hopes that voters of West Virginia have not been discouraged from voting. 

    “The people of West Virginia can be sure that this election is fair,” Tennant said. “This ballot is legal and fair and that’s what the people of this state deserve. And let’s not forget our military and overseas citizens who will be receiving their absentee ballots in the mail very soon. We couldn’t pull the rug out from underneath them and say their votes didn’t count or make them jump through more hoops to get a new ballot. People can go to the polls in November and mark their ballot and know that in setting up this election we followed the letter of the law.” 

    Tennant also reminded citizens who want to register to vote in the November general election that the deadline to do so is October 12. In person no excuse early voting begins across West Virginia on October 13. 

    To read the legal brief filed by the Secretary of State’s Office, click here

    To read the legal brief filed by the Republican State Executive Committee, click here.

Contact:

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