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West Virginia Republican state Senate candidate Andrea Kiessling has a big problem. The votes for her are not going to be counted.

Talk about a campaign setback.

Kiessling is, or at least was, in a tight race for the Republican nomination to the Senate in the 8th District, which includes Roane and Clay counties and parts of Kanawha, Putnam and Jackson.

Kiessling has lost a legal challenge to her residency qualifications. Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Duke Bloom ruled this week that she was ineligible because she has not lived in West Virginia for the past five years, as required by the state constitution.

Kiessling testified that she split time between West Virginia and North Carolina, but she always considered West Virginia her home and intended to remain here.

However, Kiessling had strong connections to North Carolina between 2012 and 2021. She maintained a North Carolina driver’s license, paid North Carolina property and income taxes, listed North Carolina as her address for federal income tax returns and owned and operated a business there.

Also, she registered as a voter in North Carolina and voted there several times from 2012 through 2020, an act that “particularly troubled” Judge Bloom. “The Court finds that the act of voting in North Carolina constitutes an admission by her that she had a fixed habitation in North Carolina where she had an intention of returning,” Bloom wrote.

The judge ruled that Kiessling did not meet the residency requirement and was ineligible. However, she is still on the ballot and early voting is underway. Some have already cast votes for her, and more might still.

Bloom directed that votes for Kiessling not be counted and that clerks in those five counties of the district post signs stating that Kiessling is not eligible and votes cast for her will not be tabulated.

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Kiessling’s legal fight, though, is now over.

She had asked the West Virginia Supreme Court for an emergency order to block Bloom’s decision from being enforced. However, the court acted quickly, on Friday, denying Kiessling’s motion for a temporary stay.

Sadly, this race is tainted.

Those voters who already cast ballots for Kiessling are disenfranchised. Had they known sooner, they could have chosen to vote for someone else so their votes would not have been wasted.

With Bloom’s order upheld by the Supreme Court, Kiessling’s campaign was damaged at a critical juncture.

If the courts had put off the issue until after the primary and she were ultimately declared ineligible, then the district Senate committee would have appointed a replacement on the ballot. In that case, all the votes for each of the candidates in the primary race would have been made irrelevant.

Kiessling did not meet the residency requirement, so she is not an eligible candidate. However, this issue should have been raised long before the ballots were printed and early voting was underway.

This mess could have been avoided.

Hoppy Kercheval hosts “Talkline,” on MetroNews.

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