WV Supreme Court got it right

An editorial from The Exponent Telegram 

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — We believe the West Virginia Supreme Court made the correct decision in not allowing Democrat Erik Wells, a former State Senator, to run as an Independent for Kanawha County Circuit Court.

The Court’s 4-1 decision was announced on Monday and upheld a Kanawha County Circuit ruling by Judge Charles King. In that ruling, King said Wells couldn’t run because he is a registered Democrat and allowing him to run as an independent “would be inaccurate and create voter confusion,” theCharleston Gazette-Mail reported.

The Supreme Court expedited the case, hearing oral arguments on Sept. 7 before issuing the ruling. It directed current Circuit Clerk Vera McCormick to “take whatever measures are necessary” to keep Wells off the ballot. Ironically, Wells would have been running against McCormick if the Court had allowed.

 But Justices Brent Benjamin, Menis Ketchum, Allen Loughry and Margaret Workman saw the potential for voter confusion and stopped the process. Justice Robin Davis dissented.

Obviously, Wells was disappointed but “appreciated the fact the court reviewed the law, and I’ll want to find their reason for denying me ballot access.”

He still could run as a write-in candidate, but generally that is a more difficult road because voters have to take the time to write the candidate’s name in to be able to vote for him.

Wells, whose wife is Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, then brought up a valid question: What about other people who are registered with a party, but are running as Independents in the November general election?

Tennant’s office has identified seven candidates who are registered with a major party but are running as independents. Does Monday’s ruling make them ineligible?

 All of this will need to be cleared up quickly to avoid any confusion for voters, which should be the ultimate goal.

The West Virginia Supreme Court’s decision is logical and appears based on strong case law. However, the justices need to be prepared to take the necessary actions to make the law applicable to others who are seeking office under similar circumstances.

The November election is fast approaching and all steps need to be taken to ensure a fair, controversy-free voting process.

To see more from The Exponent Telegram, click here. 

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