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Court date set for Harpers Ferry election case

October 11, 2019
Toni Milbourne - For the Chronicle , Shepherdstown Chronicle

HARPERS FERRY - A case involving an ongoing election controversy in the town of Harpers Ferry has been set for hearing in the 23rd Judicial Circuit Court in Charles Town for Oct. 28, 2019 at 2 p.m.

The hearing, which will be presided over by Judge Debra McLaughlin, comes on the heels of a filing in Circuit Court on Sept. 27 by Nancy Case and Deborah McGee, two candidates who were on the June ballot in Harpers Ferry's municipal election, but were not successful in their election bid. The two are seeking remedy from the Circuit Court regarding provisional ballots that were not accepted by the canvassing board in June or during the tribunal on the matter, which was held Aug. 24.

At issue in the case is whether the Board of Canvassers for the election should have counted provisional ballots in the election, since results in the council race for Case and McGee were determined by as few as two votes.

Case and McGee contend that four provisional ballots should have been counted, because those casting the ballots were not listed in the Harpers Ferry poll book, due to technical error. The four ballots in question were refused at canvassing, because the voters were not listed in the Harpers Ferry poll book, the official record of duly registered voters in the corporate limits. Each of the four votes, Leah Howell, George and Linda McCarty and Adam Hutton, were recorded in the Bolivar poll book, because their street addresses were all labeled as "West Washington Street" instead of "Washington Street." Each of the voters had registered to vote at the Division of Motor Vehicles.

The canvassing board for the town, made up of council members, some of whom could potentially lose their seats if the ballots in question were counted, maintains that since the individuals in question were not specifically listed in the poll book, their votes cannot be counted.

During the tribunal testimony in August, Chief Deputy Clerk of Elections for Jefferson County Nikki Painter told the tribunal the DMV assigned the "West" designation, which caused the voters to be listed in Bolivar, the neighboring town.

Painter stated in her testimony that if the votes had come before the county canvassing board, they would likely have been accepted due to a technical error, and counted in the election results.

The August tribunal members, Mayor Wayne Bishop, council members Hardwick Johnson, Charlotte Thompson and Barbara Humes upheld the original board of canvassers' opinion to not count the ballots, while members Kevin Carden and town recorder and newly elected councilman Jay Premack disagreed, writing a scathing dissenting opinion on the matter.

In the Circuit Court case, Case and McGee name Johnson, Thompson, Humes, Premack, former council member Midge Flinn Yost and the Corporation of Harpers Ferry. Bishop is not named in the suit.

The lawsuit also contends that Thompson and Johnson should have been disqualified from presiding in the tribunal because, dependent upon the outcome of said tribunal, the two could be directly affected as candidates.

The lawsuit contends the majority vote of the tribunal shows a "disregard of statutory law" which "is rather transparent given the additional votes may very likely change the election results."

 
 
 

 

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