CHARLESTON -- West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said Tuesday the so-called ballot "compromise" offered by the state's GOP Chairman Mike Stuart violates both state and federal law.
Tennant also said in a statement that Stuart is "grandstanding" by offering his compromise through the media and not in a court of law.
The Republican Party filed a lawsuit late last week that said the ballot being used for the general election -- which includes the special U.S. Senate race and an option for citizens to cast a straight-party ticket -- is in error.
The GOP's filing argues the party would suffer "irreparable harm" if voters are allowed to vote a "straight ticket" in both the general election and U.S. Senate races. That option allows voters to select candidates from the same party by making a single mark on the ballot. Democrats outnumber Republicans in West Virginia by nearly 2-to-1.
Stuart, in a statement released Tuesday afternoon, offered two options: Removal of the straight-party option and printing a separate paper ballot for the Senate election.
Stuart said in an interview on 58-LIVE, heard on MetroNews 58-WCHS in Charleston, that with the changes, "Come Election Day, everybody who votes would be able to rely upon the validity of that vote."
He told listeners, "It would not be challenged in the courts at that point and no one would be disenfranchised, which is the real concern today."
But the secretary of state says both parts of Stuart's options are illegal.
The first option, Tennant said, violates a state law that allows citizens to vote a straight ticket. The second option violates the Help American Vote Act, a federal law that says each precinct must have at least one machine that is compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
"This goes back to what I have said all along," Tennant said in her statement. "I took the common sense approach and followed the law and precedent and kept them together on the same ballot. It is not as easy as printing up another ballot. Much thought, planning, and debate took place to follow the law, save the state money, and provide voters with an open, honest, and fair election."
Tennant said putting the special U.S. Senate race on the general election ballot will not only prevent voter and poll worker confusion, but also save the state and counties millions of dollars.
She said having two ballots would have meant printing two poll books and having two sets of poll workers in every precinct, two sets of voting machines, two sets of absentee ballot applications, "among other wasteful redundant procedures."
The GOP's challenge to the ballot isn't the only one.
House of Delegates candidate Janet "J.T." Thompson filed her own challenge last week with the state Supreme Court. Like the GOP, Thompson also is demanding a separate ballot for the special U.S. Senate race.
The Court is slated to review her petition Thursday, and has given Tennant's office until Wednesday to respond.