Surkamp pleads guilty on charges
CHARLES TOWN – On Sept. 23 Jefferson County Commissioner Jim Surkamp pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count unauthorized presence in a polling place. He accepted the plea offer days before his slated trial on illegal voting allegations.
As part of his plea deal, one count of the two-count indictment that charged Surkamp with illegal voting was dismissed. Circuit Court Judge David Sanders ordered the commissioner to pay a fine and court fees. According to an e-mail sent out by Surkamp on Monday, he will pay $182 in court costs.
“I accepted and pled guilty to a $100 fine and misdemeanor for unlawful presence in a polling place in exchange for the Prosecution and Secretary of State fully endorsing in writing my version of what happened there,” Surkamp wrote in the e-mail.
On Nov. 7, 2009, while Surkamp was at the polling place he approached a supply clerk to report that one of the poll workers had not been approved by the County Commission. Besides voters, the only staff allowed present in a polling place are from the county clerk’s or prosecutor’s offices.
In April, Surkamp was indicted by a Jefferson County grand jury on one count illegal voting and one count of unauthorized presence at a polling place. Surkamp had voted early in October but claimed he forgot and still went to the polling place on Election Day.
In Surkamp’s e-mail, he included the letter he sent to Secretary of State Natalie Tennant.
“I have since learned, through the Secretary’s investigation, that West Virginia Code 3-9-6 precludes any unauthorized person from entering a polling place, unless upon a lawful errand and for a proper purpose, and that the only persons authorized are actual voters and the staffs of the County Clerk’s or Prosecuting Attorney’s offices,” the letter stated.
It went on to state, “My intent was not (to) commit a crime, although I did.”