By Stephen Smoot
Even numbered years in West Virginia means that election season has returned. The first step for many in the process of running for office lies in filing. The filing period started on Jan. 8 and ends on Jan. 27. Since the 27th falls on a Saturday, the county clerk will open her office between 9 a.m. and noon.
Elise White, Pendleton County Clerk, advises that those planning to run should come to her office in the county courthouse. “They need to come in here,” White stated, adding that “we have a packet of information that they need to complete and look through.”
Political campaigns in West Virginia are governed by a specific set of laws designed to ensure transparency and accountability. For even experienced candidates, it can be easy to miss important details and necessary actions.
Missing some mandated actions could even lead to legal consequences for the candidate.
White listed some of the areas where candidates often miss meeting their legal obligations.
She said, “They need to file an Ethics Commission report within 10 days and pay the filing fee.” Each office requires a different filing fee. Those running for county commissioner must pay $430.96 and also live in the Central District. County commissioners serve a six-year term.
Candidates for county prosecutor must pay $1,108,80, magistrate $632.50, assessor $551.66, sheriff $551.66, school board $25, surveyor $10 and conservation district supervisor $10. Each of these offices comes with a four-year term.
White noted that candidates usually run into trouble with campaign finance reports. These can be filed online on a regular basis with the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office. She shared that she will place a courtesy call to candidates who are later, since there is a legal penalty. “I usually try to call,” White said. “We don’t have to, but we do it as a courtesy.”
Many candidates miss that if they plan to switch political parties for the election, that they must do so at least 60 days prior to filing. Those running for magistrate must indicate whether they will run in division one or two. This will determine their opponent in the race.
Candidates may mail their packet in, but it must be postmarked by Jan. 27.