July 23, 2014

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In Or Out? Maybe The Laws Do Need To Be Changed

Something to consider, now that the May primary is over.

It wasn't exactly a surprise to me that Bob Tebay won the Wood County Commission primary.

Tebay, seeking to return to the commission after being defeated several years ago, filed to run in January, but, citing health issues, notified the County Clerk's office in April he wanted to withdraw. This was still several weeks before the primary.

But current law, according to the Secretary of State's website, says a candidate who files in January (the normal filing period) and then withdraws his name from consideration must do so no later than the third Tuesday following the close of candidate filing.  Depending on the filing dates in a particular year, this would probably be by early February.

So Tebay was not allowed to withdraw.  His name remained on the ballot, and he defeated three lesser-known challengers.

(For his part, Tebay told me the day after the primary that his health has improved, and that he might still run in the November election.)

If Tebay isn't in the race, the local Republican party has to meet to choose someone to take his place on the ballot in the fall election.

While a comparison of one state's laws to another is sometimes inexact, compare the Tebay situation to one less than two years ago in Washington County, Ohio.

Chris Forshey, independent candidate for sheriff, notified the board of elections there that he was withdrawing from the race.  This was in early October, one month before the general election, and just as early voting was to begin.

That withdrawl was accepted, and, according to our stories at the time, voters were told a vote for Forshey would count only as a disqualification.

In fact, the Secretary of State's website in Ohio, referring to state code, says: "A candidate may withdraw his or her candidacy by filing a written statement of withdrawl with the appropriate board of elections at any time prior to the primary or general election."

In other words, any time up to the day before election day.

I've been covering news in both states long enough to understand West Virginia is not Ohio.  They are two different states, with two different sets of laws (although they're obviously both subject to any federal laws) designed to address separate issues in each state.

But are there problems with West Virginia's elections system so bad that they require a candidate to withdraw from an election nearly THREE MONTHS before a vote is taken?

Wood County officials dealing with the Tebay situation say its a problem the legislature needs to address.

Maybe they're right.

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