HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — As many as 22 unaffiliated and minor party candidates could now be on the Nov. 8 General Election ballot in West Virginia, according to an order entered by U.S. District Judge Chuck Chambers Thursday.
During a hearing in Huntington federal court, Chambers granted a preliminary injunction finding the state’s new requirement that independent nonaffiliated and minor party candidates file their candidacy by Jan. 30 of an election year unconstitutional.
The requirement, created when the state legislature amended state code in 2015, created too much of a burden, Nitro attorney Harvey Peyton, who represents one of the candidates, said.
“There’s no real reason to require someone who is a nonaffiliated candidate to file an announcement on Jan. 30 when the general election is 284 days away. There’s really no rational basis for that,” Peyton said.
The major parties, Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians and a few others, have a nominating process requiring their candidates to file for an election in January. Usually minor party candidates decide later in an election year to get involved, Peyton said.
“They see the candidates that have filed and they see the positions that are taken in campaigns and decide they can do better or differently and so they solicit support from voters and petition to be placed on the ballot no later than Aug. 1. It’s really fundamental right of association and equal protection,” Peyton said.
A state Supreme Court opinion issued last week in a Kanawha County case involving former state Senator Erik Wells’ attempt to run for county clerk as an independent while maintaining his registration as a Democrat highlighted the state code filing deadline change for the minor party candidates. The secretary of state’s office then notified those candidates they would no longer be on the ballot. Candidates with the Constitution Party, Darrell Castle, and the Socialist Equality Party, Naomi Spencer Daly, filed the lawsuit in federal court that Chambers ruled on Thursday. Part of their complaint was the Secretary of State’s office had the wrong information about the filing period on its website.
The ruling could impact as many as 17 candidates in county races and five in statewide races if they have met other requirements.
Peyton said the ruling would apparently not impact the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Wells case because the Supreme Court ruled a member of a major party could not remain in that party and run as an independent.
The ruling from Judge Chambers came quickly with ballots for the Nov. 8 vote, in many cases, already at the printers.
Meanwhile, state Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis, the only justice to vote in favor of Wells’ argument to be on the ballot in Kanawha County, filed her dissenting opinion Thursday.