CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — An eastern panhandle circuit judge has given a deadline to those who plan to appeal her decision in connection with the June 11 municipal election in Harpers Ferry.
During a court hearing Friday, Jefferson County Circuit Judge Debra McLaughlin gave the parties until Dec. 6 to perfect their appeal to the state Supreme Court, according to the Herald-Mail newspaper.
McLaughlin earlier had placed a temporary stay on her order that the ballots of four voters in question be counted.
Five council positions were up for grabs when citizens of the historic town of about 300 people voted this past summer.
Initially, the results showed five incumbents were the top vote getters. The top candidate got 90 votes and the fifth candidate got 83.
The candidates initially in sixth and seventh place got 82 and 81 votes.
Those candidates, Nancy Case and Deborah McGee, have been challenging the results ever since. In particular, they are contesting rulings that four provisional ballots would not be counted.
Those ballots were initially considered to be cast by voters who lived outside the municipal limits. But Case and McGee contend those voters were mistakenly listed in the nearby Bolivar voting district, not Harpers Ferry
That happened, they contend, because of an error that occurred when the four residents registered to vote through the state Division of Motor Vehicles. The mistake placed their home addresses outside the municipality.
The Harpers Ferry Board of Canvassers first took a look at the ballots and declined to count them. Case and McGee then appealed to Harpers Ferry Town Council, serving as an election tribunal. That meant two of the incumbents who could lose their seats heard the appeal.
The Council voted to leave the disputed ballots uncounted, with the town recorder and a councilman dissenting and contending that the situation was being guided by “conflict of interest and political gaming.”
So the two candidates took their case to circuit court in Jefferson County. McLaughlin heard the case Oct. 28 and later issued a 15-page ruling mostly in favor of Case and McGee. The judge ordered a recount, including the disputed ballots.
The same day her decision was reached, lawyers for the majority of council members filed notice of appeal to the state Supreme Court.
In the meantime, some members of council gathered last week to attempt to conduct the re-count. Over the course of a couple of hours, though, not enough council members appeared to constitute a quorum.
Since then, Jefferson County Sheriff Pete Dougherty had seized the ballots putting them in an evidence locker in his department.
“I would have thought a little simple election with a little over 200 votes would not require this kind of attention either,” Dougherty told MetroNews last week.
It’s not known how quickly the state Supreme Court will make a decision on the appeal. The Court ended its fall session Friday.
Story by Jeff Jenkins/Brad McElhinny.