By Steven Allen Adams | West Virginia Watchdog
CHARLESTON — The Senate Judiciary Committee could move as quickly as next week on a bill designed to close a loophole allowing felons to run for public office or be appointed.
“I think it just clarifies what the current law is and the statute,” said state Sen. Corey Palumbo, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and lead sponsor of the bill. “The statute says if you have a conviction that’s been unreversed, then you can’t hold office.”
The current code states that: “No person convicted of treason, felony, or bribery in any election, before any court in or out of this state, shall, while such conviction remains unreversed, be elected or appointed to any office under the laws of this state; and, if any person, while holding such office, be so convicted, the office shall be thereby vacated.”
However, in a 1933 decision, the state Supreme Court of Appeals had trouble interpreting what “unreversed” meant. In a case involving a Raleigh County official who had previously been convicted of a felony, the Supreme Court ruled that the official could stay in office.
“Unreversed, to most normal people, means another court hasn’t tossed it out,” Palumbo said. “The Supreme Court 80 years ago wiggled their way around that somehow and had a pretty poor interpretation of what that means. I think we just need to clarify if you’ve been convicted and it’s not been overturned, and make the language crystal-clear instead of just pretty obviously clear, then that’s all my bill intends to do.”
The issue came up again when Jerry Weaver, a former Lincoln County Assessor convicted of vote buying in 2005, put his name on the ballot to run for Lincoln County Sheriff.