Ashton Marra Published

Supreme Court to Determine Raines Ballot Dispute


In August of this year, House of Delegates member Suzette Raines decided she would not seek re-election for her seat in the 35th District in Kanawha County. The decision lead to petitions over replacing her name on the ballot and that petition has since turned into a lawsuit, one that will now be decided by the state’s highest court.

After Raines’s issued her withdraw, citing personal reasons including the recent death of her mother, the Kanawha County Republican Executive Committee asked the state Elections Commission to allow them to appoint a replacement. The commission took up the issue, but never voted either way, essentially leaving the party without the ability to appoint. 

In their case before the West Virginia Supreme Court Tuesday, the executive committee, represented by Mark Carter, argued state statute says if a candidate withdraws from a race post-primary, the commission “shall” appoint a replacement. That shall, Carter told the court, means they are required making the decision easy for the justices. Raines name must be replaced.

But Laura Young, counsel for the Election Commission and Secretary of State’s Office, argued the candidate never asked for someone to be appointed in her place. Raines tendered her withdraw unilaterally, never asking for the commission’s approval, but did not request a replacement, therefore, there was no need for them to vote on the issue.

Young also argued a Kanawha County Circuit Court order issued around the same time required Raines to drop out of the race in order to avoid civil litigation filed against her. 

Even so, the Secretary of State’s Office removed Raines’s name from the ballot without the election commission’s vote of approval, something Young said the office does have the power to do. Now, the multi-member 35th District ballot is one Republican name short.

Should the court choose to rule in favor of the Republican Executive Committee, the ballots will have to be reprinted at the cost of the taxpayers and mailed again to absentee and military voters. That fact did not sit well with the justices and they are expected to decide the case quickly.