LOGAN, W.Va. — The hearing which will settle the contested race between Douglas Witten and Joshua Butcher for a seat on the Seventh Judicial Circuit was held Aug. 23 at the Logan County Courthouse.
Witten was appointed to the seat on July 10, 2015 by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin to fill the vacancy left by the retirement of Judge Roger Perry.
Logan County’s May 10, 2016 primary ended with Witten trailing Butcher by 59 votes.
Following the official canvass, Witten requested a recount.
The May 25, 2016 recount ended with Joshua Butcher being certified the winner of the circuit judge race.
Witten had 10 days to file papers contesting the results of the election.
On June 6, Witten filed an official notice of election contest with the clerk of the House of Delegates.
State code 3-7-3 concerns election contests and lays out that a three person panel should be sworn to hear Witten’s case contesting the election.
Witten, Joshua Butcher and Tomblin each selected a member of the panel.
Tomblin selected Charleston lawyer James S. Arnold.
Witten chose John Counts, who served as treasurer of his campaign.
Joshua Butcher selected former U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin.
During the proceedings at the Logan County Courthouse August 23, Witten’s legal team dropped their initial challenge that fallout associated with the beating of senate candidate Richard Ojeda just days before the election affected the outcome of the judge’s race.
Witten’s team instead focused on what they claim are three violations of election laws at three separate precincts.
At precinct one, which is referred to as “bulwark,” Witten’s team presented evidence which shows ten people voted who did not sign the poll book as required by election law.
Poll workers are also reportedly required to take an oath affirming they will fairly work the polls.
At the Striker precinct, signed oaths for poll workers are reportedly unavailable.
Witten also alleges Jamie Dempsey Butcher, the wife of Joshua Butcher, engaged in electioneering within 300 feet of the Lane precinct.
A poll worker from the Lane precinct testified the 300 feet demarkation that limits electioneering was not measured for the May 10 election.
The poll worker noted the measurement had been made in previous years and the measurement had never changed.
A witness for Witten, however, testified the signs which limited electioneering at the Lane precinct were placed only 225 feet from the door.
Witnesses for Joshua Butcher explained they also documented signs for Witten being too close to a precinct at Mitchell Heights.
During her testimony, Jamie Butcher was shown security footage from the Lane precinct.
Jamie Butcher explained Delegate Ralph Rodighiero had joined her at the Lane precinct for a time.
Jamie Butcher explained she and Rodigheiro had been wearing similarly colored clothing on the day of the election, and reported it could be Rodighiero in certain parts of the video.
Jamie Butcher answered she was unaware of the 300 foot electioneering rule and stated she only knew she had to stay away from the signs which marked the radius around the polling place
Following the end of arguments, it was explained it will take some time for all parties to receive transcripts of the trial.
Once all parties involved receive transcripts, the tribunal will allow ten days for their review before hearing final statements and entering deliberations.
Owen Wells is a reporter for Civitas Media. He can be reached at 304-752-6905 ext. 1729 or by email at [email protected]