Stuart

Tennant

CHARLESTON -- The West Virginia Republican Party on Tuesday announced it will not further challenge the layout of the state's Nov. 2 ballots.

GOP Chair Mike Stuart said in a statement that the party was "confident that a challenge of the lower court's opinion last week to the West Virginia Supreme Court or the Federal district court would be successful."

A lawsuit filed by the party in an effort to have voters provided with separate ballots for the regular general elections and special Senate election was shot down on Friday, with a judge saying the party's "allegations of harm" were too speculative.

The GOP opposes allowing a straight-ticket vote to apply to both the special election and general elections. The option allows a vote to be cast for all of a party's candidates with one mark on the ballot, and Democrats outnumber Republicans in West Virginia by nearly 2-to-1.

Stuart said they still believe the ballot was constructed by Secretary of State Natalie Tennant to provide a partisan advantage.

"Despite the clear language from the Legislature, our chief elections officer decided to ignore them and the advice of a bipartisan collection of county clerks around the state who thought the ballot questionable," he said of Tennant.

Tennant, a Democrat, has cited cost as one of the main reasons for a single ballot. If separate ballots were made, the result would cost millions of dollars, she has said. Also, depending on which voting machines they use, nearly all of the state's 55 counties would've either had to buy a new set of devices just for the special election or reprogram their devices, in violation of federal law.

Separate ballots, Tennant has argued, also would confuse and possibly disenfranchise voters -- including hundreds of military and other overseas absentee voters who have already been mailed a unified ballot.

Now, Stuart says, it's time for the GOP to band together in preparation for the November election.

"Time is running short. Though we are absolutely confident in our position, we can't afford for this ballot issue to remain the central point of this campaign," he said. "Making sure to debate Obama's policies and those of his endorsed candidates Joe Manchin, Mike Oliverio and Nick Rahall is the most important thing.

"If we fail to send John Raese, Shelley Capito, David McKinley and Spike Maynard to Washington, our state will be forever doomed to a devastated economy where coal is targeted for destruction," he said.

In addition to the regular general elections, the Nov. 2 election will decide who serves out the remaining term of the late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, who died in June. Gov. Manchin and Raese, a Morgantown businessman, are vying for the longtime senator's seat.

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