Harding has been charged in connection with the Election Day incident, and his criminal case is pending, the lawsuit states.
The Secretary of State's Office repeatedly has reminded Harding that it also is illegal "to divulge to anyone any part of a report or any proceeding involving an investigation," according to the lawsuit.
Tennant herself invoked this law last week when she issued a statement explaining why she would not reveal any information about her office's investigation, if any, into to allegations of widespread voter fraud in Lincoln County during last month's primary.
"[T]he interpretation given to [the disclosure law] by the office of the Secretary of State prevented [Harding], and prevents any other target of election law investigations, from defending his (or her) name when implicated in an election law violation," the suit states.
"[Harding] seeks to inform the public through The Observer and its website about possible violations of election laws, including improper voting, campaign finance irregularities, candidates' mistakes and other affronts to the democratic process but is prevented from doing so by the operation of [the disclosure law]."
The way Tennant's office interprets the disclosure law constricts the flow of information about allegations of voting irregularities, and harms Harding and the public by restricting constitutionally protected speech and the freedom of the press, the lawsuit maintains.
Tennant spokesman Jake Glance said the Secretary of State's Office had not seen a copy of Harding's lawsuit and would not comment on it.
Harding's lawsuit seeks a declaratory judgment pronouncing the disclosure law unconstitutional, and an injunction preventing the Secretary of State's Office from enforcing it. The suit, filed by West Virginia University law professor and constitutional law expert Bob Bastress, Martinsburg lawyer David Hammer and Shepherdstown lawyer Andrew Arnold, also seeks expenses and legal fees.
Reach Andrew Clevenger at acleven...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.