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Jefferson County commissioner indicted on charges of trying to vote twice

April 20, 2010|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- Jefferson County Commissioner Jim Surkamp was indicted Tuesday on charges of trying to vote twice in a November zoning referendum and illegally entering the polling place.

Surkamp, 60, of 64 Larkspur Lane in Shepherdstown, W.Va., is in his final year of a six-year term representing the Shepherdstown Magisterial District. He filed for re-election and faces a Democratic primary challenge May 11 from Ruth McQuade and Paul G. Taylor.

According to West Virginia Code, a conviction would not prohibit Surkamp from holding office since both counts are misdemeanors.

According to the first count of the indictment, handed up by a Jefferson County grand jury, Surkamp on Nov. 7 "knowingly and unlawfully" tried to vote at the Shepherdstown Fire Hall, his regular voting precinct, after having voted Oct. 19, during the early-voting period.

Surkamp was challenged by a poll worker at the fire hall, the indictment states.

The second count accuses Surkamp of making unauthorized entry into the precinct while voters were casting ballots.

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The case is being investigated by the West Virginia Secretary of State's Office.

Surkamp said in a telephone interview Tuesday night that he "will campaign twice as hard because Jefferson County needs an advocate for open and fair government more than ever."

He called the fact that the indictments came on the first day of early voting for the May 11 Democratic Primary "political baloney."

"The timing is obvious," he said.

Surkamp said, "I had forgotten that I had voted in the referendum in the Jefferson County Courthouse three weeks before, during the early-voting period."

The case was brought before the grand jury by Daniel M. James, an assistant Morgan County prosecutor, according to Jefferson County Prosecutor Ralph A. Lorenzetti Jr.

James was assigned to Surkamp's case as a special prosecutor.

Tim Leach, assistant general counsel for the secretary of state's office, is leading the investigation, Lorenzetti said.

Jake Glance, spokesman for the secretary of state's office, said state code bans the office from talking about investigations.

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