HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — A federal court hearing in Huntington Thursday afternoon will determine whether two third-party candidates will be on the ballot in the Mountain State on Election Day.
Federal Judge Chuck Chambers scheduled the hearing on a request from Tennessean Darrell Castle, the Constitution Party’s presidential nominee, and Naomi Spencer Daly, a Cabell County resident running for the House of Delegates as a member of the Socialist Equality Party.
The two have sought a temporary restraining order after they were told by Sec. of State Natalie Tennant they were removed from the ballot based on a decision by the state Supreme Court earlier this month ruling former state Sen. Erik Wells ineligible to run for Kanawha County clerk.
Last month, they received confirmation from Tennant’s office that they did in fact qualify for the general election ballot.
“The Constitution Party feels aggrieved, and I can understand why, based upon what’s now known as the Wells Ruling,” said Kanawha Commission President Kent Carper. “They’ve filed lawsuit in federal court.”
The High Court, in a 38-page opinion by Justice Margaret Workman, upheld the decision in Kanawha Circuit Court that Wells, a registered Democrat, was not permitted to appear on the ticket as an independent candidate because it would create voter confusion.
“The Secretary of State’s office, after reading the Wells decision, which I don’t think they really liked, but then they refused to certify the Constitution Party,” Carper explained.
Wells had never filed to run as a Democrat in this year’s primary election, but afterwards had used a procedure for independent candidates to try to get on the ballot.
Castle and Daly want Tennant’s interpretation of the Supreme Court decision declared unconstitutional in Thursday’s hearing.
“Their argument is there was an unintended consequence by the Wells ruling that affected the Constitution Party, who has to get on the ballot a little bit of a different way. But this took them out,” Carper said.
According to their lawsuit, Daly and Castle met the Aug. 1 filing deadline for independent candidates by obtaining signatures from at least 1 percent of the number of votes cast in their respective races in the previous election.
Tennant’s interpretation of the court’s opinion removed 17 independent candidates from the general election ballot. Several Republican and Democratic would-be candidates also were eliminated by the Supreme Court decision.
Thursday’s hearing begins at 1 p.m.