Updated: Monday, November 5, 2018 at 3:00 p.m.
A group encouraging West Virginia voters to reject a constitutional amendment on the Nov. 6 ballot has filed a complaint with Secretary of State Mac Warner. The complaint, rooted in free speech issues and the state’s electioneering laws, comes after an incident Saturday at an early voting location in Morgantown.
A poll worker asked Vote No on Amendment 1 volunteer Stacy North to stay at least 100 feet from the entrance of the Mountaineer Mall early voting location to comply with state law, West Virginia Code Section 3-9-9.
According to the complaint, Warner himself later approached North and Kathy Lewis, another Vote No on Amendment 1 volunteer who had joined North at the location, and asked them to move completely off the property of the polling place.
Warner cited another state law -- West Virginia Code Section 3-3-2a -- that was more restrictive than the 100-foot rule.
The volunteers agreed to move but say they were unable to adequately engage voters on their way into the polling place. They also questioned Warner and his staff over the decision to apply the more restrictive law rather than the 100-foot rule.
The complaint cites a 2015 decision by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. It found that a 300-foot no political speech buffer zone around polling locations was not in the public interest and violated the free speech clause of the First Amendment.
“As a coalition formed due to one of the largest, most controversial ballot initiatives in the state’s history, we are dedicated to not only educating and talking to voters, but also following election laws,” Vote No On Amendment 1 spokesperson Julie Warden said in a written statement following the filing of the complaint. “This type of misinformation and misrepresentation of the law is disruptive and undemocratic.”
Asked to respond to the Monday lawsuit, Warner's office again cited West Virginia Code Section 3-3-2a.
“The Secretary of State’s Office must enforce the law as it is written by the Legislature, and this provision in the law has been in the books for years,” Warner said in a written statement. “Regardless the plaintiffs’ contentions, my Office cannot pick and choose which provisions of law to enforce.”