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Wisconsin Election Officials Rule Petition Circulators Can Add a Voter’s Address for the Voter

On June 10, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board ruled that nothing in Wisconsin law invalidates a petition signature, just because the voter/signer lets the circulator add the address. The ruling puts Brett Hulsey, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, on the primary ballot. See this story.

2 Responses

  1. Jim Riley

    The GAB staff prepared a memo regarding all the challenges that were considered at the GAB meeting on June 10 (the GAB is comprised of retired judges).

    In the case of Brett Hulsey, the staff noted that it had been past precedent by the board to permit circulators to complete information on candidate petitions. In this case, voters had written their street addresses, with some including their post office and zip code. The “municipality” was a separate column, and appears to have been added by someone else.

    The post office and municipality and post office are not necessarily the same. Wisconsin administers elections by municipality (cities and towns) rather than by counties, so the municipality may be needed to check that the signer is registered.

    If the circulator had added the voter’s name and address it would be a lot more problematic since then you would just have a scrawled signature – and it doesn’t appear that signatures are verified against the registration.

    Nulsey in his response didn’t even address the municipality issue, instead mostly giving a rant that that it was an attempt to disenfranchise old voters with shaky handwriting. The challenge was from Democrats who likely thought Hulsey was too much of a loose cannon, who might interfere with the their attempt to regain the governorship.

    The news article had a sidebar with the 6 candidates whose challenge was sustained. Four were for signers outside the district. In two cases, there were plenty of signatures, but over 1/2 were from outside a district. It appears the circulators didn’t even care. In two other instances, the candidate had only a couple of signatures beyond the minimum, so that just a few from voters outside the district were enough to disqualify the candidate.

    In the case of the Mike LaForest, the GAB prepared two separate opinions, one that would have only dropped a few signatures for being outside the district which would have left LaForest on the ballot and another that would have dropped several pages, enough to knock him off the ballot. This was the only staff memo that suggested that the GAB should decide what to do. All the others, the staff gave a specific recommendation to either to sustain or reject a challenge.

    The GAB apparently took the more severe option. It appears that someone mis-copied the petition blanks. At the top of the petition the title “Nomination Paper For Partisan Office” had been cut off. The GAB staff offered the possibility, that voters could have figured out that if someone were running as a Green candidate on November 4, 2014 for the 47th Assembly District, and that they hadn’t signed another candidate’s petition, that they would know that it was for partisan office, particularly since the candidate had circulated the petition themselves.

    It appears that LaForest did not provide a written response to the GAB, which appears to be unique. I don’t know whether he or a representative appeared at the hearing.

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