Elections, West Virginia Legislature

Senate Judiciary advances bills to fight ‘swatting’, prohibit primary election sore-loser party switching

MORGANTOWN – The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday advanced bills to enhance criminal penalties for “swatting,” and to prohibit sore-loser party switching after a primary election.

HB 4845 is the swatting bill, and has nothing to do with flies.

Swatting in this bill is filing a false emergency report with police, fire or EMS. Lead sponsor Delegate Rick Hillenbrand, R-Hampshire, told the senators the name derives from SWAT teams being called out to bogus emergencies.

While it’s happened around the country, he said, he learned from a House colleague that it also happens here, with at least eight swat calls in that delegate’s county.

Current law makes swatting a misdemeanor. The bill makes second and subsequent offenses felonies. And it makes causing injury as a result of a swat call a felony.

The senators amended and approved the bill unanimously in a voice vote. It heads to the full Senate.

Judiciary also amended and approved HB 5298. It prohibits a candidate belonging to one of the four recognized political parties – Republican, Democrat, Libertarian and Mountain – from becoming a candidate for one of the other recognized parties for the following general election.

Discussion revealed that the bill fills a loophole in existing sore-loser (or sour-grapes) law that prohibits a failed primary candidate to get on the general election ballot by gathering signatures through the certificate process.

Sen. Vince Deeds, R-Greenbrier, said this happened to him in one of his elections: His primary opponent ran against him again as the candidate for another party. “It was really frustrating having to fight that battle one more time.”

This bill also goes to the full Senate.

Email: dbeard@dominionpost.com