BY TAYLOR BENNETT, POLICY COORDINATOR, THE HUB
Some of the most exciting things that I see at the Capitol are policy solutions that come directly from communities experiencing a challenge. That’s exactly what happened this week.
Last week, we summarized HB 2309, which would allow municipalities to cancel elections when only one person is running.
The interesting thing about this bill, apart from what it would allow municipalities to do, is that it is being considered at the state level because the town of Moorefield explained a challenge they were having to their Delegate, Isaac Sponaugle.
Moorefield, like many smaller municipalities in West Virginia, commonly has election cycles in which there is only one candidate running for each of the open positions. Rick Freeman, the City Clerk noticed that each of these elections was costing the town about $3,500 taxpayer dollars- very frustrating given that the outcome of the election was already known.
So, he came up with an idea- why not save that taxpayer money by cancelling elections under this one, specific set of circumstances. Here’s a look at what the bill would do:
- Under this bill, most of the parts of the WV Code that govern elections would stay the same. Both regular and write-in candidates would still be required to file their candidacy with the Secretary of State’s office as normal.
- If, after both the regular and write-in deadlines have passed, there is only one person running, the municipality would be able to choose whether or not to cancel the election for that office.
- No municipality would be forced to cancel any election.
- If a write-in candidate did submit their paperwork, the election would still have to be held- giving that person a fair chance to win.
- The only circumstance in which an election would be cancelled entirely is when every candidate on the ballot was running unopposed and no write-in candidates had filed.
Today, the bill was taken up by the House Political Subdivisions Committee, where it met some healthy discussion. Delegates were particularly interested in making sure that write-in candidates still had a fair shot.
Currently the bill states that a cancellation can happen only when “the filing period has closed for persons to file as a candidate for municipal office.” Phrasing it this way covers all types of candidates. However, if there is concern that it could be misinterpreted, Delegates might amend the bill to include a phrase which clarifies that the deadline for write-in candidates must also pass before an election is cancelled.
HB 2309 passed out of the Committee on Political Subdivisions. Next it heads to House Judiciary.