Filing fees preventing independents from running in W. Va. special election
By Kyle Maichle
CHARLESTON, West Virginia: As the filing deadline approaches for candidates who want to replace the late U.S. Senator Robert Byrd, independents are facing huge hurdles towards gaining ballot access.
West Virginia requires any candidate on the statewide ballot to pay a filing fee equivalent to one percent of the current office-holder's salary. All U.S. Senate candidates in the special election must pay a $1,740 fee. A member of the U.S. Congress is paid $174,000 a year except for members who hold leadership positions. Jake Glance, a spokesman for Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, told West Virginia Watchdog that the filing fee is set by statute and there were no changes planned during the recent special session.
However, minor political party and independent candidates are taking issue with the filing fee. Jesse Johnson, who is a member of the Mountain Party, said that the timing of the special election is preventing independent and minor party candidates from seeking ballot access. Johnson stated that the required fee: "made this an very elitist game tailor-made for those who can immediately write a $2,000 check." Johnson further expressed his frustration by claiming that the requirements are "just disenfranchising.".
In addition to paying a filing fee, independents must obtain a minimum number of signatures to get on the ballot. All independent candidates have until August 23, 2010, to obtain 1,740 signatures. The requirement is calculated by factoring .25 percent of all voters who casted ballots in the last U.S. Senate election. The requirement was created by the Secretary of State only for the special election. Independents have a one percent signature requirement for all other elections.