CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Supreme Court wasted little time and spared no criticism Wednesday in unanimously ruling that Secretary of State Natalie Tennant must allow Republican Marie Sprouse-McDavid to replace Delegate Suzette Raines on the ballot in the 35th District House of Delegates race.
The court’s 10-page opinion came one day after parties on both sides argued before the court, and blasted the state for its actions. Democratic Justice Menis Ketchum went further in a concurring opinion, saying the State Election Commission and Secretary of State’s Office “blatantly ignored” the law. Republican Justice Allen Loughry decried the commission and Tennant’s actions as “demonstrably irresponsible.”
“The fact that this Court’s previous ruling on this precise issue was disregarded by the statutory body charged with oversight of our electoral process, as well as the State’s chief election official, is both disturbing and unconscionable,” Loughry wrote in his own concurring opinion.
In a statement from a spokeswoman, Tennant’s office thanked the court for “clarifying the law.” The spokeswoman said the office would work with the commission and Kanawha County to reprint more than 50,000 ballots to include Sprouse-McDavid’s name.
Raines withdrew from her re-election bid earlier this year, citing personal issues. Tennant’s office accepted her withdrawal, but the State Election Commission — on which Tennant serves — ruled she could not be replaced on the ballot.
The commission determined her reasons didn’t amount to “extenuating personal circumstances,” a phrase used in a part of state code that triggers a replacement process by the committee. Democrats argued she withdrew because she faced a legal challenge; Democrats agreed to drop a lawsuit arguing Raines violated state campaign and ethics laws after she resigned.
The Kanawha County Republican Executive Committee asked the Supreme Court to overrule Tennant and put their favored candidate, Sprouse-McDavid, on the ballot…