West Virginia Code
If the election of Governor, Secretary of State, treasurer, Auditor, Attorney General, commissioner of agriculture, a judge of the Supreme Court of Appeals or a judge of a circuit court, is contested, the contestant shall give notice, with specifications and affidavit, to the person whose election is contested within ten days after the election is certified and within ten days thereafter the return notice shall be given to the contestant. The parties shall finish taking depositions within forty days after the notice is delivered. The depositions shall be transmitted to the Clerk of the House of Delegates, to be delivered by him or her to the joint committee or special court hereinafter provided for. In other respects the regulations contained in this article respecting contests for a seat in the Legislature shall be observed, so far as they are applicable.
When the election of Governor is contested, the notice of contest and the depositions shall be referred to a joint committee of the two houses, for examination and report, which committee shall consist of two senators elected by ballot by the Senate, and three delegates elected in the same manner by the House of Delegates. The contest shall be determined by the Legislature, both houses thereof sitting in joint session in the hall of the House of Delegates, and the President of the Senate shall preside.
Where the election of Secretary of State, Auditor, Treasurer, Attorney General, commissioner of agriculture, or of a judge of the Supreme Court of Appeals, or of a circuit court, is contested, the case shall be heard and decided by a special court constituted as follows: The contestee shall select one, the contestant another, and the Governor a third person, who shall preside in said court; and the three, or any two of them, shall meet at a time and place within the state to be appointed by the Governor, and, being first duly sworn impartially to decide according to law and the truth upon the petition, returns and evidence to be submitted to them, shall proceed to hear and determine the case and certify their decision thereon to the Governor. They shall be entitled to $10 a day each, and the same mileage as members of the Legislature, to be paid out of the treasury of the state, and such special court is hereby given authority to employ a stenographer at a reasonable compensation, to be also paid out of the treasury of the state. In all hearings or proceedings before such special court, the evidence of witnesses and the production of documentary evidence may be required at any designated place of hearing by such special court, or any member thereof; and in case of disobedience to a subpoena or other process of such special court, or any member thereof, such special court, or any member thereof, or either of the parties to such contest, may invoke the aid of any circuit court in requiring the evidence and testimony of witnesses and the production of papers, books and documents. And such circuit court, in case of a refusal to obey the subpoena issued to any person, shall issue an order requiring such person to appear before such special court and produce all books and papers, if so ordered, and give evidence touching the matter in question. Any failure to obey such order of the circuit court may be punished by such court as a contempt thereof. A written record shall be kept of all testimony and other proceedings before such special court.
Either party to such contest feeling aggrieved by the final decision of such special court may present his petition in writing to the Supreme Court of Appeals, or a judge thereof in vacation, within thirty days after such final decision is certified to the Governor, as hereinbefore provided, praying for the suspension, setting aside, or vacation of such final decision. The applicant shall deliver, or cause to be delivered, a copy of such petition to the other party to such contest, or, in case of his absence from the state or from his usual place of abode, he shall mail, or cause to be mailed a copy of such petition addressed to his last known post-office address, before presenting the same to the court, or the judge. The court, or the judge, shall fix a time for the hearing on the application, but such hearing shall not be held sooner than five days, unless by agreement of the parties, after the presentation of such petition, and notice of the time and place of such hearing shall be forthwith delivered to the other party to such contest, or, in case of absence from the state or from his usual place of abode, such notice may be given by mailing, or causing to be mailed, the same, or a copy thereof, addressed to him at his last known post-office address. If the court, or the judge, after such hearing, be of the opinion that a suspending order should issue, the court in its, or the judge in his, discretion, may suspend such final decision and may require bond upon such conditions and in such penalty, and impose such terms and conditions upon the petitioner, as are just and reasonable; and the court, or the judge, shall fix a time for the final hearing on the application. The hearing of the matter shall take precedence over all other matters before the court. For such final hearing, and before the day fixed therefor, the special court shall file with the clerk of the Supreme Court of Appeals all papers, documents, testimony, evidence, and records, or certified copies thereof, which were before it at the hearing resulting in the final decision from which the petitioner appeals, together with a copy in writing of its final decision; and, after argument by counsel, the court shall decide the matter in controversy, both as to the law and the evidence, as may seem to it to be just and right. The Supreme Court of Appeals is hereby given jurisdiction to enforce the provisions of this section by writ of prohibition, mandamus and certiorari, as may be appropriate.
Any person intending to contest the election of another as senator or delegate shall, within ten days after the election is certified, give him or her notice thereof in writing and a list of the votes he or she will dispute, with the objections to each, and of the votes rejected for which he or she will contend. If the contestant objects to the legality of the election or the qualification of the person returned, the notice shall set forth the facts on which the objection is founded. The person whose election is contested shall, within ten days after receiving the notice, deliver to the contestant a like list of the votes he or she will dispute and of the objection to each, and of the rejected votes he or she will claim; and, if he or she has any objection to the qualification of the contestant, shall specify in the notice the facts on which the objection is founded. Each party shall append to the notice an affidavit that the matters therein set forth, so far as they are stated of his or her knowledge, are true and that, so far as they are stated on the information of others, he or she believes them to be true. If new facts are discovered by either party after he or she has given notice, he or she may give an additional notice or notices to his or her adversary, with specifications and affidavit as above prescribed.
The notice of contest shall be presented to the proper branch of the Legislature, within ten days after its meeting.
Either party may begin to take the depositions in such contests for seats in the Legislature at any time after the delivery of the original notice by the contestant. But reasonable notice of every such deposition shall be given, and such notice shall specify the names of the witnesses to be examined. The depositions may be taken before a justice, notary, or any officer authorized to take depositions in civil suits; and the officer before whom they are taken shall certify and seal the same, and endorse his name across the place where they are sealed, and address and transmit the same, by mail or otherwise, to the clerk of the body in which the seat is contested. When the contest is referred to a committee, the clerk shall deliver the depositions to such committee for examination and report. The parties shall finish taking depositions five days at least before the second Wednesday of January next following. Neither party shall have the benefit of any deposition taken otherwise than as aforesaid, unless further time be given by resolution of the proper branch of the Legislature.
Subpoenas for witnesses shall be issued by the clerk of the circuit court, or by a justice, upon application of either party; and witnesses shall be entitled to the same allowances and privileges, and be subject to the same penalties, as if summoned to attend before the circuit court in civil suits.
If it be ascertained that an equal number of legal votes was given for the contestant and the person returned, the Senate or the House of Delegates, as the case may be, in which the contest is pending, shall declare which of them is elected.
In all cases of contested elections, the county commission shall be the judge of the election, qualifications and returns of their own members and of all county and district officers: Provided, That a member of the county commission whose election is being contested may not participate in judging the election, qualifications and returns.
A person intending to contest the election of another to any county or district office, including judge of any court or any office that shall hereafter be created to be filled by the voters of the county or of any magisterial or other district therein, shall, within ten days after the result of the election is certified, give the contestee notice in writing of such intention and a list of the votes he will dispute, with the objections to each, and of the votes rejected for which he will contend. If the contestant objects to the legality of the election or the qualification of the person returned as elected, the notice shall set forth the facts on which such objection is founded. The person whose election is so contested shall, within ten days after receiving such notice, deliver to the contestant a like list of the votes he will dispute, with the objections to each, and of the rejected votes for which he will contend; and, if he has any objection to the qualification of the contestant, he shall specify in writing the facts on which the objection is founded. Each party shall append to his notice an affidavit that he verily believes the matters and things set forth to be true. If new facts be discovered by either party after he has given notice as aforesaid, he may, within ten days after such discovery, give an additional notice to his adversary, with the specifications and affidavit prescribed in this section.
The provisions of this section apply to all elections, including municipal elections, except that the governing body of the municipality is the judge of any contest of a municipal election.
The county court shall hear and decide election contests initiated pursuant to the provisions of the preceding section. Subpoenas for witnesses for either party shall be issued by the clerk of the county court, and served as in other cases, and the witnesses shall be entitled to the same allowances and privileges, and be subject to the same penalties, as witnesses attending a circuit court in a civil suit. The notice of contest shall be presented to the county court at its first term after the same is delivered to the person whose election is contested, and the same shall be docketed for trial in such court. At the trial of such contest, the court shall hear all such legal and proper evidence that may be brought before it by either party, and may, if deemed necessary, require the production of the poll books, certificates and ballots deposited with its clerk, and examine the same. The hearing may be continued by the court from time to time, if it be shown that justice and right require it, but not beyond three months from the day of election. At the final trial of such contest the court shall declare the true result of such election, and cause the same to be entered on the records of the court. When the result of the election is declared, as aforesaid, a certified copy of the order declaring such result shall, if required, be delivered by the clerk of the court to the person declared elected, if such be the result of the trial, and such copy shall be received in all courts and places as legal evidence of the result of the election therein declared. Either the contestant or contestee shall have the right of appeal to the circuit court of the county from the final order or decision of the county court in such proceeding, upon the filing of a bond with good personal security, by the party desiring the appeal, to be approved by the county court, in a sum deemed sufficient by such court, with condition to the effect that the person proposing to appeal will perform and satisfy any judgment which may be rendered against him by the circuit court on such appeal. But such appeal shall not be granted unless the party desiring the appeal shall make application for such appeal, and file such bond, within thirty days from the entering of the final order in such proceeding; and the circuit court may at any time require a new bond or increase the penalty thereof when the court deems it necessary. When such appeal is taken to the circuit court, as hereinbefore provided, it shall be heard and determined upon the original papers, evidence, depositions and records filed before and considered by the county court, and the circuit court shall decide the contest upon the merits. From the decision of the circuit court, an appeal shall lie to the Supreme Court of Appeals, as in other cases, but such appeal shall be heard upon the original papers and copies of all orders made, without requiring the same to be printed.
Though illegal votes be received, or legal votes be rejected, at any place of voting, the returns of the votes taken at such place shall not be set aside for that cause, but it may be shown, by proper evidence before the tribunal authorized by law to hear and determine contested elections, for whom such illegal votes or any of them were cast, or for whom the legal votes which were rejected would have been given, and the returns shall be corrected only to the extent that it is so shown.
The cost of every contested election shall include only the expenses of serving notices, taking depositions and the allowances to witnesses; and shall be noted at the foot of every deposition or set of depositions, by the person taking the same. If the contestant fails in setting aside the election, there shall be awarded against him the amount of such costs incurred or expended by the person who was returned or declared elected. Otherwise, each party shall pay his own costs; unless it appears that the person returned or declared elected was guilty of fraud or malpractice in the election, or in procuring such return or declaration, in which case costs shall be awarded against him in favor of the contestant. Where costs are awarded in favor of either party, the amount thereof shall be ascertained under direction of the house joint session, or court, which decides the case, and a certificate thereof, authenticated by the signature of the presiding officer, shall be delivered to the party in whose favor they are awarded, which certificate shall have the force of a judgment, and if such costs be not paid within ten days after the date thereof, the clerk of the circuit court, of the county in which the party against whom the costs were awarded resides, may issue execution on such certificate, upon its delivery to such clerk, in like manner as upon a judgment of the circuit court. But no person contesting the seat of another in the Legislature shall be entitled to pay or mileage if the contest fails.