by KATE SHUNNEY
A Kanawha County Circuit judge will preside over a hearing on Thursday, May 3, over the question of whether local pharmacist Tally Reed is eligible to be a primary candidate for a seat in the West Virginia House of Delegates representing the 59th district.
Two residents of the 59th district, which includes parts of eastern Morgan County and Berkeley County, filed a civil suit in Kanawha County last Thursday, April 26 demanding that Reed be removed from the May 8 primary ballot.
The lawsuit, filed by Patrick Lane on behalf of Howard Stone and Patricia Adams, names both Tally Reed and Secretary of State Mac Warner as respondents.
The suit claims that Reed is not eligible to run for the delegate seat being left vacant by Saira Blair because Reed doesn’t meet the residency requirements set out by state law.
Under West Virginia code, a candidate has to have lived in the district or area in which they are seeking an elected office for at least a year before the general election in which they are a candidate.
That would mean Reed would have had to reside in the 59th district since November 6, 2017.
According to the lawsuit, Reed didn’t change her voter registration or address until January of this year. Reed filed to run for office on January 25, according to state election documents. Reed provided a confirmation of her candidacy by the Secretary of State’s office, dated January 27, to The Morgan Messenger in response to questions about her residency.
The civil lawsuit names Secretary Mac Warner as a respondent and argues that Warner, as the state’s chief elections officer, has the power to remove Reed’s name from consideration as a candidate: “the Court should grant the writ and order the Secretary of State to withdraw the certification of Reed’s candidate for the 59th House District, and further order the Secretary to direct the ballot commissioners for Morgan and Berkeley Counties to not include Reed on the primary election ballots, and further order the Secretary to direct all election officials, county commissioners, clerks of county commissioners, ballot commissioners, election commissioners, poll clerks, and all other persons associated with the administration of the primary election to disregard and refrain from tallying, tabulating, certifying, or returning any vote cast, absentee, write-in, or otherwise, for Respondent Reed.”
County commissioners canvass and certify election results to make them official. Tally Reed is married to Ken Reed, who is a Morgan County Commissioner.
The civil lawsuit lists several pieces of evidence in support of the residents’ claim that Reed doesn’t live at 11348 Martinsburg Road in Hedgesville, the address she listed as her residence when she registered as a candidate. Instead, the lawsuit claims Reed lives at her primary family residence at 4253 Martinsburg Road in Berkeley Springs. That address is listed on the Morgan County Commission letterhead as the home address of Commissioner Ken Reed.
An affadavit from a neighbor across the street from 11348 Martinsburg Road claims that he does not believe that Ken and Tally Reed lived at the residence prior to January 2018.
The couple’s Berkeley Springs address is also the same address used on campaign materials sent out from Friends of Debra McLaughlin. The civil lawsuit claims that Tally Reed was Judge McLaughlin’s campaign treasurer at the time the campaign materials were mailed in January 2018.
The subject of Reed’s residency has been circulating on social media and blogs for some time. The lawsuit asking a judge to remove her name from the primary ballot was filed on April 26 — the day after early voting began across West Virginia.
Berkeley Springs resident Rob Campbell filed an Election Law Violation Complaint with the Secretary of State’s office on April 13. Campbell provided a copy of the complaint to this newspaper and other media outlets. In his complaint, Campbell alleges that “Tally lives in District 58 where I live. She is running for office for Dist. 59 where she does not live. This has been researched and published online in MorganCountyUSA.org so I won’t repeat.” Campbell wrote that he wanted “Tally Reed to be declared not eligible to run. If the ballots can’t be changed, that she be declared ineligible to serve.”
Campbell received a certified letter from the Secretary of State’s office dated April 18, which notified him that the office determined “we have legal jurisdiction over this matter.”
The letter states that the office determined that “administrative complaint procedures” in state law don’t apply “because the allegations may warrant a criminal investigation, which may be impeded or endangered by the administrative procedures contained in the aforementioned Rule.”
It also states the Secretary of State’s office is “prohibited from discussing any fact or event the existence of the Complaint from this point forward.”
According to Donald Kersey III, the Secretary of State’s Elections Director and Deputy Legal Counsel, his office continues to investigate complaints to determine if they should be dismissed, or proceed toward criminal action.
“We continue to building the case until we determine if there is sufficient evidence to bring an indictment,” Kersey said.
In instances where a complaint is not dismissed, and an investigation moves ahead, Kersey said the evidence in the case is turned over to the Prosecuting Attorney in the proper county. If a complaint relates to election activity in more than one county, Kersey said the case would be shared with both counties’ prosecutors for consideration.
Kersey said his office would not comment on the status of a specific complaint.