Many people in the United States undoubtedly got a good chuckle over Texas prison inmate Keith Judd getting 41 percent of the vote for president in last Tuesday's West Virginia primary against President Barack Obama for the Democratic Party nomination.
Last Wednesday, many newspapers in the country and the Drudge Report carried the story of how Judd, a New Mexico native serving a 17-year term in a federal prison in Texarkana for making threats on the campus of the University of New Mexico, received nearly 72,000 votes on Tuesday. He actually received more votes than the president in eight counties, including Gilmer, and ran a close second in nearly every other county in our region.
Yes, it was funny, but embarrassing that a currently incarcerated prison inmate was allowed to be on ballot in the first place.
How did this happen? State law seems clear that someone convicted of a felony and who is in prison is ineligible to be on the ballot. After taking heat for two days over the issue - including from Democrats angry this became a late night TV joke and fodder for Obama opponents all around the United States, West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant held a press conference Friday to defend her decision.
We think what she ended up doing was appear more unwilling to do her job than she was before the election.
During her press conference, Tennant hemmed and hawed about her office and the state constitution. The West Virginia Secretary of a State is a constitutional office, voted on by the citizens of the state. Tennant approaches the job as if she is nothing more than a clerk. Former Secretary of State Betty Ireland was never hesitant about removing names - including Judd's in 2008 - from the ballot. Tennant should follow Ireland's lead. If a person is ruled ineligible to be on the ballot, that person has the right to go to the court.
We have said this before, if Tennant does not want to enforce the election laws, give that function to another office, such as the state Attorney General and let Tennant visit schools, educating kids on the election process and urging them to vote. This would be a valuable service, and it seems to be something that would better suit her idea of the job.