CHARLESTON – A two-hour hearing was held Aug. 12 in Kanawha Circuit Judge Charles King’s courtroom to determine Erik Wells’ eligibility to run for Kanawha County clerk in the fall.
Wells, who is running as an Independent, believes he has a legal right to petition to appear on the ballot as an Independent, regardless of his actual party affiliation.
Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney Charles Miller called for the hearing to determine if Kanawha County Clerk Vera McCormick was required to put Wells on the ballot in November.
Miller argued that Wells was attempting to skip the traditional Democratic primary process and just get on the ballot.
Pat Maroney, who represented Wells, said the First and Fourth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution protect Wells’ right to appear on the ballot.
When King asked if putting Wells on the ballot would deceive voters, Maroney pointed out that Sen. Bernie Sanders, who was an Independent, appeared as a Democrat on the ballot for president in all 50 state primaries.
Kanawha Assistant Prosecutor Rob Schulenberg and Miller both asked Wells why he did not run in the Democratic primary or request that the county’s Democratic Executive Committee put him on the ballot to fill the vacancy after no Democrats ran in the primary and Wells testified that he was overseas, on active duty with the U.S. Navy Reserve, at the time.
Wells testified he could not have filed the paperwork to run in the May primary because of rules for active-duty personnel in the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Wells also said he had no intention to run for any office until later June or early July.
King set an Aug. 16 deadline for both sides to submit findings of fact and proposed final orders.
McCormick has said the issue needs to be resolved quickly, so that the Nov. 8 election ballots can be certified and sent to the printers by the end of the month.