Supreme Court Rules Republican Candidate Must Be on Ballot

Oct 1, 2014

Just a day after hearing oral arguments, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has ruled Republican Delegate Suzette Raines must be replaced on November’s ballot.

Credit West Virginia Legislature

The court released a unanimous decision Wednesday afternoon, with Justices Menis Ketchum and Allen Loughry writing separately.

Raines withdrew her re-election bid for the 35th House District in August, citing personal reasons, including the recent passing of her mother.

Days later, the Kanawha County Republican Executive Committee requested the Election Commission allow them to name a replacement, but the commission never voted on the issue, discussing it informally and deciding Raines had not shown the “extenuating personal circumstances” required for a substitute to be appointed.

The Secretary of State’s Office, however, removed Raines’s name from the ballot.

A month later, the Republican Committee sued.

In the opinion, the court wrote the Republican Committee “has demonstrated sufficient grounds to warrant issuance” of their request, saying the case did not present any new or significant questions of law.

In his concurring opinion, Ketchum wrote:

“I write separately to make very clear my belief that the Election Commission blatantly ignored both a black-letter election law, and a 22-year-old case interpreting that law.”

That law, a West Virginia Supreme Court decision in Cravotta v. Hechler, says the commission must do one of two things when a candidate requests to withdraw. If the commission does not believe the candidate meets the “extenuating personal circumstances” measure, that candidate must remain on the ballot.

If he or she does, the commission must authorize the appointment of a replacement.

Loughry also concurred with the court, writing:

“The respondents’ actions in this case reflect either an inexplicable ignorance of the laws they are sworn to uphold or a brazen refusal to abide by them. Seldom is this Court confronted with a case of which the outcome is so plainly dictated by existing precedent. The fact that this Court’s previous ruling on this precise issue was disregarded by the statutory body charged with oversight of our electoral process, as well as the State’s chief election official, is both disturbing and unconscionable.”

Because of the court’s ruling, Marie Sprouse-McDavid, the executive committee’s chosen replacement candidate, will be added to the ballot.

Reprinting the ballots by Nov. 4 is estimated to cost some $25,000, but in a statement after the decision, a representative of the Secretary of State's Office said the office and commission will absorb the cost.