- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 5, 2014

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - A federal judge issued a consent decree allowing absentee ballots to be counted in a West Virginia House District race.

Issued Monday, the consent decree follows a lawsuit filed Friday by U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin against the state and Secretary of State Natalie Tennant. The lawsuit alleged that Tennant violated the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act.

The law requires states to transmit absentee ballots to qualifying U.S. citizens voting abroad 45 days before Election Day, or to get a waiver that spells out terms for such voters to cast ballots.

Goodwin’s lawsuit involves the addition to the ballot of Republican candidate Marie Sprouse-McDavid, who was running as a Republican for West Virginia’s 35th district House of Delegates. Sprouse-McDavid was added to replace a candidate who had withdrawn.

The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals on Oct. 1 ordered Tennant to send ballots to absentee voters with Sprouse-McDavid’s name added. According to Goodwin’s complain, Tennant was unable to send corrected ballots within the 45-day window, and she was denied a Department of Justice waiver twice.

Four delegates were elected Tuesday; Sprouse-McDavid came in fifth.

Tennant’s failure to send the ballots in time made it possible that some might not be counted.

A consent decree, issued Monday by West Virginia Southern District Judge John T. Copenhaver, Jr., requires Tennant to issue an order directing the Kanawha County Commission to count votes for all corrected ballots after the state’s ballot receipt deadline of Nov. 10.

A request for comment from Tennant’s office was not returned at press time. Tennant, a Democrat, lost her bid for the U.S. Senate on Tuesday to Republican Shelley Moore Capito. Incumbent Democrat Jay Rockefeller is retiring.

West Virginia’s 35th district encompasses Kanawha county and the state capitol, Charleston.

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