CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Secretary of State's Office apparently has decided that a person may cast one straight-ticket vote for both elections on Nov. 2 - the one for the special U.S. Senate election and the one for all the other races.
The special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat formerly occupied by Robert Byrd will coincide with the general election already scheduled this fall.
Although there are technically two separate elections, candidates in both will appear on the same ballot. That means one straight-ticket vote will count for both elections.
Some officials, including Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper, smell trouble with that procedure.
Carper said the victor in the Senate race could win by a narrow margin. If that is the case, the loser may challenge the procedure in court.
"They could say, 'Show where in the law it says you can vote once for two different elections,' " Carper said.
Carper detailed his concerns in a letter to Secretary of State Natalie Tennant on Tuesday.
"As you are aware, but I am not sure the general public is, there is at least an argument there will be two elections held on November 2, 2010; a regular General Election, as well as a Special Election to fill the vacant U.S. Senate seat," Carper wrote.
"The issue is how to address straight ticket voting.
"Should public meetings (be) held by ballot commissioners, as well as the state Elections Commission to discuss this possible problem area?" Carper's letter continues.
"This has the potential of causing a possible challenge at some point. How do you propose the counties handle this matter?"
Carper said he doesn't necessarily take issue with the procedure itself. But he said county officials weren't included in the decision-making process.
"If there were public meetings on this, then I missed them," he said.
Wood County Clerk Jamie Six seconded Carper's concerns. He said officials should make sure that the procedure is airtight now, rather than wait for it to be challenged in court after the election.
"I would rather have a discussion now rather than go through the court system the way Florida did back years ago," Six said in reference to the Bush-Gore presidential race of 2000.