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Commission rules that election wasn't compromised

September 02, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Members of the Jefferson County Commission wrapped up an ongoing controversy Thursday over how a June 25 special election in the county was conducted, but not before more discussion - sometimes heated - over an issue which one county official described as a "blatant partisan witch hunt."

County Commission President Rusty Morgan said at the conclusion of Thursday's meeting that he found nothing to indicate that the election had been compromised despite concerns over possible problems such as polls opening late and ballot boxes being left unattended.

The controversy started two weeks ago when two county residents affiliated with the Democratic party lodged complaints about how the June 25 pension bond election was conducted in Jefferson County.

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Reva Mickey, a member of the West Virginia Democratic Executive Committee, said two election polls did not open on time and there was distractions at a precinct in Shepherdstown, W.Va., because of a basketball clinic which was being held in the building.

Mickey and Mike Cassell, chairman of the Jefferson County Democratic Executive Committee, alleged a lack of notification of changes in polling places and that some ballot boxes were left unattended when they arrived at the Jefferson County Courthouse, said

When ballot boxes are brought to the courthouse from polling places, a Democrat and Republican poll worker must accompany the boxes until they are received by a election official at the courthouse, Mickey said.

Mickey requested the commissioners do an investigation into the election and also mentioned the possibility of a police investigation if it is determined the problems existed, particularly in regards to ballot boxes possibly being left unattended.

The discussion has focused at times on Jefferson County Clerk Jennifer Maghan, who oversees county elections. The June 25 election was Maghan's first as county clerk.

Maghan has said she always is open to input on how to improve elections and repeated a previous statement Thursday that the next election will be smoother.

"I take my election responsibilities very strongly to heart," said Maghan, adding that she would be open to the idea of having a mentor assist her on elections.

Mickey aired more concerns about the election to the commission Thursday, including a lack of signs directing people to correct polling places, especially polling locations that had changed.

Mickey said she cannot understand why there was a lack of signs when the county received a grant to pay for them.

"Investigate this and come to conclusions. The issue is we've got to get on this," Cassell said Thursday.

Mickey and Cassell said their concerns were nonpartisan, but the chairperson of the Jefferson County Republican Executive Committee said the controversy was a "blatant partisan witch hunt" being waged against Maghan, who is a Republican.

"This latest action to discredit Ms. Maghan is yet another attempt by members of the Jefferson County Democratic party and others to run her out of office because she has infiltrated the closed cloister of the courthouse," Suzanne Morgan said in a letter which was read to the commission.

Commission President Rusty Morgan said he wanted to bring the matter to a close, and added that Maghan has made it clear that she is willing to learn and get all the training she can.

No elections are perfect and they are difficult to conduct given the dozens of volunteers that have to be organized and other challenges, Rusty Morgan said.

Commission member Greg Corliss said he "found no major problems" with the election was ready to move on.

Commission member Dale Manuel made a motion that all material on the issue be sent to officials in the state Secretary of State's office for their review. Commission member Jim Surkamp objected, saying that would give the impression that county officials believed that something may have been wrong.

Manuel's motion failed.

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