LOGAN, W.Va. — As election day came and went Nov. 8, the election in Logan County was not complete.
One race from the May 10, 2016 primary is still in limbo: circuit judge Douglas Witten has filed a notice of appeal with the Supreme Court of West Virginia for the election contest which saw his challenger, Joshua Butcher, be named winner.
The May 10 election ended with Witten trailing Butcher by 59 votes.
Witten requested a recount; however, following the recount, the vote totals for the race did not change.
An official notice of election contest was filed by Witten with the clerk of the House of Delegates June 6.
Witten based his election contest on a series of alleged violations of election law including a breach of electioneering laws and other irregularities like inconsistencies between the number of votes cast and the number of signatures in the poll books.
The state code dealing with election contests for circuit judges states a three person panel should hear and decide the case for a contested election.
In such a case, the governor and each party of the contested election would choose a member of the panel.
Tomblin selected Charleston lawyer James S. Arnold.
Witten chose John Counts, who served as treasurer of his campaign.
Joshua Butcher selected former U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin.
The election contest was heard by the tribunal in Logan County Circuit Court August 23, and the tribunal issued their decision October 17 that Butcher had won the election contest.
Attorney for Butcher, Ryan Donovan, explained Witten filed the notice of appeal November 3.
Witten’s official brief is due to the supreme court November 10, Butcher’s brief is due November 17 and Witten’s reply is due November 21.
The court then has an option to hear oral arguments on the matter or the court can reportedly choose to rule based on the briefs alone.
Donovan stated he expected to see the court move quickly on this matter.
Donovan added, “Judge Butcher has already won this election three or four times. The voters elected him, the board of canvas confirmed it and certified it. The recount confirmed it. Then the special court which included Witten’s own campaign treasurer decided Josh Butcher won the election. The fact that judge Witten continues to the challenge this after he has been told repeatedly he has no grounds for his challenge is troubling. Our only goal is to get this resolved as quickly as possible so everyone can get back to work and stop wasting public resources.”
Owen Wells is a reporter for Civitas Media. He can be reached at 304-752-6950 ext. 1729 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.