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WV high court hears Senate vacancy arguments

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Voter intent or party affiliation?

That’s the heart of the question before the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, placed there because of the resignation of former state Sen. Daniel Hall, who resigned earlier this month to become a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association. Hall was elected as a Democrat in 2012, but switched parties two years later, giving the Republicans their first majority in the upper chamber in more than 80 years. The 2014 General Election left the senate deadlocked at 17-17.

 When Hall resigned, the West Virginia Democrat Party filed a writ of mandamus to compel Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to appoint a Democrat, as Hall was when he was elected, but Republicans interpret the law to say that a member of the GOP should fill that seat because of Hall’s party affiliation immediately before his resignation.

Tomblin later announced his intention to appoint a Democrat unless the Supreme Court instructed him to do otherwise.

The court did not immediately render a decision.

Arguments Tuesday from the Democrat petitioners relied heavily on “the will of the voters.” Peter Markham, who represented Tomblin, said Hall was affiliated with both parties, and spent most of his truncated term as a Democrat. Markham said lawmakers had not anticipated that a sitting senator would switch parties during his or her term, thus the statute spoke directly to Hall’s party at the time of his election…


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