BREAKING: Manchin Legal Counsel Jonathan Deem Calls for Special Session to Fix Election Law

By westvirginia on July 9, 2010
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In a statement release today, Jonathan Deem, Legal Counsel for West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, is calling for a special session of the West Virginia Legislature to fix the state’s elections laws to allow for a special election to fill the unexpired term of the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd.

From the statement:

“I am advising the Governor, in light of the varying opinions on the succession law, to call a special session of the Legislature next week to address the issue.

“I’ve received dozens of calls this week from lawyers volunteering their time and opinions on this subject. I’ve spoken with lawyers from Charleston, New York, Washington D.C., past colleagues and friends.

“No two lawyers agree on when the election may take place or how the process should be handled.

“It is especially clear to me, now that the Attorney General has officially said that he disagrees with the Secretary of State, that the only way to finally put this issue to rest is for the Governor to call a special session.

“If the Legislature does not clarify its intent, the State risks a legal challenge that would undermine or delay the ability of the people to vote in an election.

“The Attorney General graciously agreed, in his opinion to the Governor, to work with the other officers of the Executive Branch and the Legislature to address these issues. The State should take him up on that offer as soon as reasonably possible.”

Attorney General Darrell McGraw released an advisory opinion yesterday saying Manchin could call a special election to fill the remaining two and a half years left on Byrd’s term. This contradicted the findings of Secretary of State Natalie Tennant‘s office, which said that West Virginia Code 3-10-3 calls for a timely primary filing period, meaning the earliest a special election could be held would be 2012. The primary election for West Virginia this year was in May.

McGraw’s decision yesterday says the 17th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which lays out the groundwork for electing Senators and filling senatorial vacancies, trumps West Virginia law.

Should Manchin call a special election next week, that would bring the Legislature back a week earlier than expected. The Legislature is already scheduled to return to Charleston on July 19 to pass education reforms, including a charter school bill.

Manchin is currently in Boston for the National Governors Association annual meeting this weekend.

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Posted under Elections, Featured, Federal, Legislation, News, Politics, Transparency.
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