CHARLESTON – A bill forcing a runoff if no candidate for a state Supreme Court seat garners 40 percent of the vote in the election is headed to the House of Delegates.
The House Judiciary Committee passed the bill Jan. 16 unanimously on a voice vote.
In November, Justices Evan Jenkins and Tim Armstead won seats on the Supreme Court. But neither received more than 36 percent of the vote. Each of the non-partisan races featured 10 candidates. At the time of the election, Jenkins and Armstead were sitting on the bench temporarily after having been appointed by Gov. Jim Justice.
If House Bill 2008 passes, it would go into effect for the 2020 elections. If a Supreme Court candidate doesn’t receive 40 percent of the popular vote in the May election, there would be a runoff election on the November general election ballot between the two candidates with the highest vote totals.
Speaker Pro Tempore Daryl Cowles (R-Morgan) sponsored the bill.
On a related note, state Senator Patricia Rucker (R-Jefferson) introduced a resolution requiring the Senate to confirm any appointment to the state Supreme Court made by the governor.
Current Justice John Hutchison was appointed by Justice last month.
“If from any cause a vacancy shall occur in the office of a justice of the Supreme Court of Appeals and cause the Governor to fill such vacancy by appointment, such appointment shall require the confirmation by a majority vote of the members of the Senate,” Senate Joint Resolution 8 states. “In case of a vacancy, during the recess of the Senate, the Governor shall by appointment fill such vacancy, until the next meeting of the Senate. If an appointee fails to obtain a majority vote of the members of the Senate, the appointee may not take the office of a justice of the Supreme Court of Appeals and the Governor shall appoint another candidate.”
The resolution was introduced Jan. 14 and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee before going to Finance, but it has yet to be taken up.