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Secretary of State weighs in on election issues

By MATTHEW BURDETTE

The Inter-Mountain

ELKINS, W.Va.  — West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner’s office weighed in Monday on the recent controversy about today’s Elkins Municipal Election.

The majority of recent issues have involved improper disclosure statements on campaign signs and other materials.

After investigation, all but one candidate with political signs or literature violated the disclaimer law, which is set in West Virginia Code. First Ward Councilman Rhett Dusenbury was the only candidate to adhere to the regulation.

Mike Queen, the deputy chief of staff and communications director for Warner, said the violation is a common one seen in many municipal and small elections throughout the Mountain State.

“The majority of time this becomes an issue is with negative advertising, like when someone takes a full-page ad in a newspaper,” Queen said. “It is required by West Virginia Code. As for enforcement, it has been in instances of negative advertising, like an ad against a candidate or against a levy. If there is a committee, like the Committee to elect Mike Queen, it would clearly have to be there, but with a candidate like in municipal elections, the presumption is that it (the materials) was paid for by the candidate. That doesn’t mean that it’s not illegal, though.”

According to state code 3-8-12(n), “Any person violating any provision of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not more than $1,000, or confined in jail for not more than one year, or, both fined and confined.”

Queen pointed out that prosecutions or penalties are rare in these cases, and that a specific complaint would have to be filed against a candidate for it to move to the next level.

Another issue that has come up is that Elkins Mayor Van Broughton had one of two keys to the ballot box containing early voting slips.

Queen said that is by state law and that, although Broughton is running for office, he cannot discharge that duty on anyone else.

“This situation happens frequently,” Queen said. “Basically, there are times when the mayor and clerk both are up for election or re-election. They still have that responsibility and those duties to the city. They have to adhere to that. Just because someone is running for re-election, doesn’t mean they can discharge that particular duty.”

Queen also said, despite perceived or rumored missteps in the election process, that Warner’s office has been kept apprised of the situation and that everything is 100 percent in compliance with State Code.

“The city clerk (Jessica Sutton) did speak with out chief legal council,” he said. “She has been in contact with our elections division, too, and our legal council believes they have it well under control. We are here as support and to give guidance and we have done so and everything seems to be going well.”

As for complaints that have been filed, Queen said, by law, he cannot release any of that information.

“Really, I hope there is a great turnout,” Queen said. “We believe the city is doing everything above board, and we have all the faith and confidence that the city clerk and her staff has the situation under control.”

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