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Surkamp accused of trying to vote twice in zoning referendum

Jefferson Co. Democratic Executive Committee condemns commissioner

Jefferson Co. Democratic Executive Committee condemns commissioner

December 15, 2009|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- A Jefferson County commissioner is in trouble with fellow Democrats for trying to vote twice in a countywide zoning referendum in November.

Records show that Jim Surkamp cast a ballot at the Jefferson County Courthouse during the zoning referendum's early-voting period, then attempted to vote on election day.

The 10-member Jefferson County Democratic Executive Committee, in a resolution condemning Surkamp, said he tried to vote a second time at the Shepherdstown Fire Hall, his regular voting precinct, on Nov. 7, the day of the special election. An election worker challenged Surkamp.

"He wasn't even supposed to be in there," Reva Mickey, executive committee chairwoman, said this week. "Trying to vote twice is against the principles of our own party."

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Surkamp, who plans to run for a second six-year term next year, declined to discuss the issue when asked earlier this week.

"No comment," he said. "Not on that topic."

Mickey said executive committee members were particularly upset when Surkamp, that same morning, tried to order a poll worker to keep an eye on another poll worker. Surkamp claimed the worker should not have been allowed to work the polls, Mickey said. Surkamp accused the executive committee of not following proper procedures in selecting poll workers, she said.

"That really got to the executive committee," Mickey said.

The executive committee, in its resolution citing Surkamp, said he "publicly challenged one such duly appointed, approved and authorized poll worker at a polling place without cause."

The committee "followed all legal procedures in the selection of poll workers for the special election," the resolution said. The committee "strongly disapproves of the actions of Commissioner James Surkamp and deems such actions inappropriate and harmful to the democratic process."

"This is the first time the committee has ever condemned anyone before," Mickey said. The committee plans no further action.

The county Democratic and Republican executive committees recommend poll workers to the county clerk, who makes the final choice on who works the election, she said.

Jake Glance, a spokesman in the West Virginia Secretary of State's office, said Tuesday that state law prohibits him from stating whether that office is investigating Surkamp's actions.

Surkamp is facing at least one announced challenger in the May 2010 Democratic primary.

The period for filing for elected office runs from Jan. 11 to 30, Mickey said.

Shepherdstown lawyer Ruth McQuade has filed precandidacy papers for a run for Surkamp's county commission seat.

In 2008, McQuade lost to Ralph Lorenzetti in a race for Jefferson County prosecutor.

Surkamp was elected to the seat in November of 2004.

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