Charleston, W.Va. – Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant said today her staff is ready to work with state lawmakers to clear up the section of state code that deals with absentee voting.
A recent decision by Raleigh County Circuit Judge H.L. Kirkpatrick said parts of the code were “ambiguous,” resulting in more than 300 contested absentee ballots being thrown out in the Lincoln County primary election.
Both of Lincoln County’s circuit judges recused themselves.
Throwing out the contested ballots reversed the outcome of the circuit clerk primary election.
“There are sections of code that are open to interpretation, and my office has always been open to discussing code and working with state lawmakers to make changes if change is needed,” Tennant said.
“During the 2010 Primary Election, 54 of West Virginia’s 55 counties had no problems with absentee ballot applications or absentee voting. In the past 12 years there have been minimal changes made to the absentee ballot application. The wording used on the absentee ballot application is taken directly from state code. The code is very clear on what must be included on the absentee ballot application, including what reasons can be given for absentee voting and who must sign the absentee ballot application.”
Tennant also said she would like to meet with Judge Kirkpatrick to discuss the sections of code that he felt were ambiguous and hear his suggestions on how to make the absentee voting process better. Tennant said she also plans on forming a blue ribbon panel of election experts to take a close look at entire chapter of state code that deals with elections.
The Secretary of State pointed out that there are several sections of code that conflict or that may lend themselves to conflicting interpretations.
"The elections code needs to be closely examined,” Tennant said. “The people of Lincoln County deserve it, and the people of West Virginia deserve it.”
More training on absentee voting rules could also be part of the solution, Tennant added.