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 Oaths of Public Officials

The oath of office to be taken by all but a few public officers in West Virginia, from a city council member to the Governor of the State, is prescribed by the West Virginia Constitution.   Article IV, Section 5 specifies the terms of the oath to be taken:

"Every person elected or appointed to any office, before proceeding to exercise the authority, or discharge the duties thereof, shall make oath or affirmation that he will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this State, and that he will faithfully discharge the duties of his said office to the best of his skill and judgment; and no other oath, declaration, or test shall be required as a qualification, unless herein provided."

The oath for members of the Legislature is separately set out in the Constitution, in Article VI, Section 16, and consists of the general oath given by all officers, plus an additional oath.

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the State of West Virginia, and faithfully discharge the duties of Senator (or Delegate) according to the best of my ability." and "I will not accept or receive, directly or indirectly, any money or other valuable thing, from any corporation, company or person, for any vote or influence I may give or withhold, as Senator (or Delegate) on any bill, resolution or appropriation, or for any act I may do or perform as Senator (or Delegate)."

Who May Administer the Oath?

Certain officials have general authority to administer oaths as provided by West Virginia Code §39-1A-1, and may therefore administer the oath of office. Any justice, judge or magistrate, any clerk of any court of record, county commission or municipality, and any notary public or commissioner for West Virginia may administer an oath of office.

For some offices, the oath is administered by a specific officer by tradition or law. For example, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Appeals administers the oaths of office to the state's highest officials at the inauguration.

A justice administers the oaths of members of the State Senate and House of Delegates following the declaration of the election when the Legislature is convened for the first time after a general election, although the Constitution also authorizes a circuit judge or "by any other person authorized by law to administer an oath".

The county superintendent of schools administers the oath to new board of education members. The mayor or recorder may administer the oath to municipal officers. When no person is designated by law to administer the oath or that officer is unable to do so, one of the officials with general authority should perform that responsibility.

When May the New Officer Take the Oath?

Often, a newly elected official may wish to have a ceremonial event at which friends are present and he or she takes the oath of office. In the case of an elected official, it is important that the official's election have been certified or declared as provided by law before the official oath is taken.

For example, a state official or legislator is not officially declared elected until the Legislature convenes and the official returns of the election are presented to and accepted by the Legislature. A circuit judge is not officially declared elected until the Governor issues a proclamation and a magistrate must be commissioned by the Governor. A county official is not officially elected until the board of canvassers certifies the election.

Generally, new officials must take the oath of office before beginning the duties of the office. The oath can be taken before the term begins, provided the election is certified and/or finally declared by the appropriate body.

What Form is Used?

Although the oath may be taken orally and in writing on any paper containing the words of the official oath, a form for state and county officials other than members of the Legislature is provided here in Acrobat Reader format for convenience. If you have not used the reader, see Acrobat Reader Help.

The name of the office and name and address of the officer can be entered on screen and printed for signature at the time of taking the oath. By using this form, you can be sure that the name of the individual and the office for which it is taken will be clear in years to come. Oath of Office Form

Where is the Oath to be Filed?

The oaths of all state officials, including constitutional officers, justices, members of the Legislature, circuit judges, members of boards and commissions appointed by the Governor, executive appointees to administrative positions, and other offices not otherwise specified are filed with the Secretary of State. (See WVC §6-1-6)

The oaths of county officials and magistrates are filed with the clerk of the county commission, except that original oaths of members of the board of education are filed with the secretary of the board (the superintendent of schools) and a certified copy with the clerk of the county commission. (See WVC §6-1-6)

The originals oaths of all municipal officials are filed with the recorder or clerk of the municipality and a certified copy with the clerk of the county commission of the county in which the major portion of the municipality is located. (See WVC §6-1-6)

Some oaths of office, such as those of election officials and certain appointed officers, for example, are filed as prescribed in the section requiring the oath.

Related Laws

The general requirements for oaths are specified in West Virginia Code (§2-2-7 and §6-1-6 ). Some sections related to the authority to administer oaths are also included here. To search other parts of the Code, visit the Legislature's web site and select WV Code.

Requesting Information and Copies of Oaths of Office

These documents are public information and copies may be ordered. To order a copy, please specify the official's name and office held, and district if applicable.

  To request information by e-mail about the oath of a specific officer, click the icon.  Requests which require an extensive search of older records may be subject to search fees.    Click here to request information by email about the oath of a specific officer  
  To order copies or certified copies online, click the e-West Virginia icon.    Click here to order copies or certified copies online  

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