Supreme Court: Harpers Ferry must count last four votes

Staff Writer
Mineral Daily News-Tribune
Harpers Ferry

CHARLESTON – The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals handed down a unanimous 4-0 decision today against the Harpers Ferry Town Council's refusal to count four provisional ballots remaining from the Town's June 11, 2019, municipal election.

WV Secretary of State Mac Warner said, "In West Virginia, every voter counts, and every vote counts. I am pleased the Court upheld our State Code that says technical errors shall be disregarded and the votes shall be counted. That was clearly the case here where DMV and Post Office blunders led to the technical error.”

The Town Council of Harpers Ferry consists of the Mayor, Recorder, and five members of Council. Each is elected to two-year terms.

On September 11, 2019, the current Town Council – two of whom may lose their seats depending on the four votes at issue – issued a majority opinion rejecting the four provisional ballots. Though challenged and asked to recuse themselves, the Council members continued to sit in judgment on their own contested election. This, too, the WV Supreme Court found inappropriate.

On May 19, 2020, the Court heard arguments from the Town as well as the attorney for the candidates. Today, the Supreme Court determined that all four individuals were, in fact, legal residents of the Town of Harpers Ferry on the date of the election, and each was entitled to vote. The Court ruled that the ballots of the four voters in question would be counted.

"The state Supreme Court affirms what we argued all along – that technical errors should not be used to deny someone the right to vote,” said Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. “Small town elections are the bedrock of our democracy, and I hope this decision underscores that those who fail to count a legitimately cast ballot run afoul of the fundamental underpinnings of our legal system."

Warner concluded, “The paramount principle that election laws are to be construed in favor of enfranchisement has long been caselaw in West Virginia. Officials throughout West Virginia in all levels of government should take heed, and learn the lesson the Supreme Court sent today.”