While marking a visible difference in legal opinion, statements made by West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin and West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant appear to agree on one thing: the law is convoluted, and the legislature can change it, perhaps in a special session.
Earlier in the day, Manchin told reporters that he has asked state Attorney General Darrell McGraw for a second opinion on the state’s election law. Tennant had previously declared, that because of a quirk of timing and a confusing election law, that the seat had to be filled by appointment. After Manchin’s comments hit the wires, Tennant released a statement which, while recognizing the legal authority of the attorney general in this matter, firmly stated “while I welcome the opinion of the Attorney General’s Office, I stand by my original interpretation of state code and our review of the appropriate case law.”
She stated that her office has been evaluating the legal requirements and timelines for various election scenarios and has contacted the attorney general and offered their election law expertise.
“I have said time and again that I do not personally agree with this section of code. In fact, I would like to see the people of West Virginia go to the polls as soon as possible,” wrote Tennant. “I have always been an advocate for voting whether it be satellite precincts, vote-by-mail, or internet voting for our military and overseas voters.”
The big news that the AP seems to be focusing on is that Manchin has said that he would run for the seat if a special election were held. I would venture to say that most West Virginian’s are not surprised by this, but it is nonetheless newsworthy for the grim and awkward dance that is filling the late, and openly beloved Sen. Byrd’s seat.
The larger story is slowly focusing itself on the legislature and how, or if, they are open to changing the law. They have a special session coming up on July 19, and the matter could be addressed there. Tennant also issued a call for a special session as early as possible to examine the section of state code that deals with the succession process. “I believe by working with the legislature we can clear up the confusion in the code and pass a law that works for West Virginia voters.”