CHARLESTON – A former state senator claims the 1st and 14 amendments to the Constitution are being violated by a ruling that doesn’t let him appear on the ballot as an independent candidate for Kanawha County clerk.
In his appeal filed Aug. 23 to the state Supreme Court, Erik Wells also argues that the nearly 1,000 voters who signed a petition to get him on the ballot are being denied their rights.
Wells appealed to the Supreme Court after Kanawha Circuit Judge Charlie King issued an order Aug. 18 saying the petition process Wells used isn’t meant for people affiliated with a political party. Wells says he decided to seek the position currently held by Vera McCormick after news reports showed that hundreds of voters in the 35th district have been voting in the wrong district for the past four years.
On Aug. 19, the Justices granted Wells' motion for appeal and his motion for expedited relief. The general election is Nov. 8. McCormock is a Republican who currently is unopposed on the November ballot.
"The Court is mindful of the fact that prepared ballots and voting machines must be delivered the Clerk of the County Commission 46 days prior to the election, and will therefore promptly consider and decide this matter," the Aug. 19 scheduling order states.
Before King’s ruling, Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney Charles Miller sought a hearing to determine if McCormick was required to put Wells on the ballot. Miller said Wells was attempting to skip the traditional Democratic primary process and just get on the ballot.
Wells says he didn’t run in the Democratic primary or ask the county Democratic Executive Committee to put him on the ballot because he was overseas on active duty with the U.S. Navy Reserve at the time. He said he could not have filed the paperwork to run in the May primary because of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Miller previously has said Wells’ appearance on the ballot could lead to confusion and election fraud. He gave the example of one major party setting up an independent candidate to siphon votes away from the candidate of the other major party.
West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals case number 16-0779 (Kanawha Circuit Court case number 16-P-364)