House, Senate bills differ on election dates

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Feb 1, 2011



CHARLESTON -- The House of Delegates and Senate have exchanged their versions of legislation setting dates for special primary and gubernatorial elections this year.

The House bill is seeking a May 14 primary and Sept. 13 general election.

The Senate's version is sticking with the dates previously selected by Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

House Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne, said of the House bill's May and September dates, "In offering the earlier dates for the election, we have taken to heart the Supreme Court's order that the election take place 'as soon as practicable,' as opposed to as late as possible."

On Tuesday, both chambers suspended the constitutional rule requiring that a bill be read on three separate days to speed up voting.

Tomblin told The Associated Press that he would agree to whichever dates make the final bill.

Tomblin previously issued a proclamation on Jan. 21 calling for a special gubernatorial election on Oct. 4 and June 20 for a primary.

His proclamation was in line with a ruling issued by the state Supreme Court on Jan. 18 that West Virginians will elect a new governor this year.

Tomblin, who took over for now-U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, who resigned with more than a year left in his term, had argued that an election wasn't needed until 2012. However, now, according to the Supreme Court ruling, a governor must be elected by Nov. 15.

Both bills also are in line with Tomblin's wish -- and that of most other state leaders -- that a primary be held instead of a nominating convention.

Thompson said in a statement Monday that House members took into consideration the benefits of holding a nominating convention, including its savings to taxpayers.

According to the Secretary of State's Office, if nominations were done by the convention process, the three major parties -- Democratic, Republican and Mountain -- each would bear the cost of their own conventions. Counties then would pay for the gubernatorial election.

That, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant has said, could cost $3 million to $4 million.

If a primary were held instead of a convention, the cost to counties could increase by another $3 million to $4 million, Tennant has said.

Despite the cost, Thompson said delegates agreed that a speedy primary and general election were "most appropriate."

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