A state court judge in Charleston, West Virginia ruled today that Republican House of Delegates candidate Tally Reed will remain on the May 8 primary ballot.
Circuit Court Judge Joanna Tabit said she would not even consider arguments made by residents of the 59th House of Delegates district that Reed does not live where she claims she lives because the petition was filed after early voting had started.
“Why not resolve it after the election?” Judge Tabit asked attorney Patrick Lane, who brought the lawsuit on behalf of the residents. “If there is an issue with respect to residency, it can be resolved then.”
Lane said to decide after the primary is to disenfranchise the primary voters.
“What about the voters who have already voted?” Judge Tabit asked Lane.
“We want to make sure that those voters in the primary are casting for an eligible candidate,” Lane said.
“If Ms. Reed were to win the primary, and then after the primary she is determined to be ineligible, it is not the voters who choose who that replacement is. It is the executive committee of the Republican Party in that district.”
But the Judge ruled that because of early voting, because hundreds of people have already voted in the May 8 Republican primary, she can’t even look at the question of whether Tally Reed is a resident of the district.
The petition was filed too late – people have already voted, the Judge ruled.
Lane said that there were complaints made to the Secretary of State’s office during as early as February of this year.
But an attorney for the Secretary of State said that April 16 was when the complaints were first filed with the Secretary of State – not earlier in the year.
Lane countered that he has copies of complaints filed with the Secretary of State as early as February.
The Judge said she was not deciding the residency issue.
“In my view, that leaves you an avenue to challenge post-election if deemed appropriate,” the Judge told Lane.
“I am thankful and relieved that the Kanawha County Circuit Court agreed with our position to dismiss this matter,” Tally Reed said in a statement. “We look forward to putting this distraction behind us and finishing strong in these days leading up to the primary election as we spread our pro-jobs message to the voters of the 59th Delegate District.”
But the case will probably drag on through the election year.
The Secretary of State has until June to decide whether there is enough evidence to bring a criminal case.
And Delegate Mike Folk (R-Berkeley), who has been driving the challenge to Reed, said that the petitioners are considering an appeal to the West Virginia Supreme Court either Friday or Monday.
“The Supreme Court called on the Circuit Court to ‘establish a proper record,’” Folk said. “This judge made up her mind coming into the hearing that she wasn’t going to do that. She was making the defense argument before the defense had a chance to make it.”