Exclusive: Complaint alleges West Virginia congressional candidate violated state election law

CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY) – A document obtained exclusively by WOAY lays out a formal complaint that alleges that Derrick Evans, a candidate who ran for the House of Representatives in West Virginia’s southern district, violated state law by registering to run for office while serving as a convicted felon.

However, the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office, while unable by law to comment on any specific formal complaints, says that felons on supervised release are not barred from registering with a party and voting.

The core argument of the complaint centers on Derrick Evans’s conviction and subsequent sentencing back in 2022. Evans pleaded guilty to a felony count of civil disorder following his presence at the United States Capitol building on January 6, 2021.

He was sentenced to three months in prison, 36 months of supervised release, and restitution for damage to the Capitol and fines. The complaint filed with the Secretary of State’s office focuses on the supervised release portion of that sentence.

Because Evans is still on supervised release, the complaint alleges that he is not allowed to be a registered Republican. It cites West Virginia state code §3-2-2, which states that any person convicted of a felony is ineligible to register or be registered to vote while serving their sentence. It defines those ineligible to be registered to vote as “any period of incarceration, probation, or parole related thereto.”

West Virginia state code §3-5-7 requires that candidates include the political party they are registered to vote with. The relevant piece of law reads “For partisan elections, the name of the candidate’s political party and a statement that the candidate: (A) Is a member of and affiliated with that political party as evidenced by the candidate’s current registration as a voter affiliated with that party.”

When Evans filed his paperwork to run for office, he entered the Republican primary as a registered Republican voter.

The complaint argues that this is a violation. However, additional West Virginia election regulations and laws make the matter less clear.

The West Virginia Secretary of State’s office says that it has long held the position that supervised release does not disqualify a person from voting, unlike probation and parole.

That’s backed up by state law, which does not explicitly say that people serving supervised release are disqualified from voting. The law only explicitly states that those incarcerated or on probation or parole are barred from voting. That distinction could play a role in any investigation into this complaint.

The Secretary of State’s office has sole jurisdiction over investigations into election law. They may pay members of the West Virginia attorney general’s office to conduct investigations for manpower purposes, but those investigations would still be overseen by the Secretary of State.

Should the investigation conclude that there was wrongdoing, it would get handed off to a county prosecutor. Additional sources close to the matter believe it could be prosecuted in any county in West Virginia’s first congressional district, since Evans was on the ballot in each of those counties. Regardless, the complaint will be investigated by the Secretary of State’s office before any legal action is taken, and the office could very well rule that it is unfounded.

The substance of this complaint is different from previous allegations that Evans was ineligible to run based on the Fourteenth Amendment.

Those complaints argued that because Evans was convicted of civil disorder in connection to riots at the Capitol, he was ineligible to run based on the 14th Amendment, which bans people convicted of treason or insurrection from holding federal office. However, the Secretary of State’s office previously told media that Evans was specifically not convicted of insurrection or treason and could run for office.

WOAY reached out to Evans for a statement on this story. Here is his response in full:

“The people of West Virginia — not any government bureaucrat, and CERTAINLY not any TV station — should decide who represents our state in Charleston or D.C.” – Derrick Evans

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