Update: Bell will not appear on the ballot. Judge David Sanders has denied a writ of mandamus and reaffirmed the ballot commission’s decision. He found that the commission did have the power to remove a candidate because it “has a duty to strike a candidate that it (knows) to be ineligible.” Sanders also ruled that he could not allow the Republican Executive Committee to appoint a replacement candidate in a mandamus proceeding, though he did not directly indicate whether such an outcome could be achieved through another kind of court action.
CHARLES TOWN – The Republican member of the commission charged with finalizing ballots for the November election has asked a circuit judge to reconsider his decision to remove the name of a magistrate candidate.
The candidate, Ronald Bell, garnered the highest number of votes in the Republican primary, but it was discovered that he had moved out of state in June. State law requires magistrate candidates to reside in the county of their election.
The ballot commission, which is composed of Republican Gary Dungan, Democrat Reva Mickey and County Clerk Jennifer Maghan, voted to remove Bell earlier this month. Dungan opposed the move, saying both that the ballot commission did not have the authority to remove a candidate and that not allowing the Republican Executive Committee to appoint a replacement candidate would unfairly disadvantage the GOP ticket.
Maghan asked Judge David Sanders to affirm the actions of the ballot commission following the vote to remove Bell, which he did, saying that Bell was “inarguably ineligible” because he failed to meet residency requirements.
Last week Dungan filed a motion asking Sanders to reconsider his ruling and allow Republicans to appoint a replacement candidate.
Dungan is arguing that, although he as a ballot commissioner was party to the case, he was never provided with a copy of the motion asking for the decision to be affirmed. He further argues that the GOP’s argument was never presented to the court because the hastily called proceedings did not allow the Republican Executive Committee time to obtain a lawyer.
Dungan said he was the ballot commissioner who first moved that the matter be brought before Sanders, but that Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Stephanie Grove, who questioned witnesses in the case, presented his case only in a “somewhat piecemeal” fashion that caused it to “lose coherence.”
Dungan said allowing ballot commissions to remove candidates gives them too much power. He said Sanders ought to issue a writ of mandamus allowing the GOP “a couple of days” to appoint a replacement candidate. Dungan said two individuals have expressed interest in standing in as candidates, though the committee was not prepared to release their names.