Elkins City Council voted at a special call meeting Wednesday to accept the first reading of a change to a portion of city code regarding early voting so that it will "read the exact same" as the West Virginia State Code.
Legal council for the West Virginia Secretary of State's office contacted Stokes with a concern about the city code.
"If the city does not precisely adhere to the state's requirements for early voting, the city could be vulnerable to a lawsuit arguing that (the city's) early voting period was improperly long," the letter said.
Stokes explained to council that the timing for this notice could not have been more on target. With city elections slated for March 5, the council has just enough time to change the ordinance and avoid the election results being contested because of the early voting period. If this were to happen, the entire election would have to be redone.
"If you differ from state law you are not as protected," Stokes said.
In a letter to Elkins Mayor Duke Talbott, City Clerk Sutton Stokes noted that city code section 7-23 states the early voting period "shall begin 20 days before the election and end three days before the election." Stokes pointed out the corresponding section of West Virginia State Code says "early in-person voting is to be conducted during regular business hours beginning on the 13th day before the election and continuing through the third day before the election."
Councilman Jim Bibey, 5th Ward, asked why changing code now would protect the city from previous election results being challenged. City Attorney Geraldine S. Roberts explained that the city code did match state regulations until it was changed in the time period between city elections. The wording of the new ordinance mirrors the wording of West Virginia State Code.
Council will consider the second reading of the ordinance at the next regular meeting.
Elkins residents will have three choices for mayor. Talbott will face two challengers in Councilmen Van Broughton, 2nd Ward, and Mark Scott, 3rd Ward.
In 1st Ward, incumbent Councilman Charles Kinnison will face Lonnie Randall.
In 4th Ward, incumbent Councilwoman Nanci Bross-Fregonara will face resident Hollis Vance.
In 2nd Ward, resident Mitch Marstiller has filed to run for the seat.
Incumbent council members Carman Metheny, 3rd Ward; Bibey; and Joe Sabatino, 5th Ward, have all filed to retain their seats.
Two seats are available in 5th Ward, because Sabatino was appointed to the seat after former Councilman Danny Satterfield resigned. Sabatino has filed to fill the unexpired term that would have been up for grabs in 2015. Bibey will be running for a full four-year term.
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