Pierce campaign files complaint with GAB regarding ballot order switching

Last week Jan Pierce, a candidate for Milwaukee Alderman in District 14, filed a formal complaint with the Wisconsin State Government Accountability Board (GAB). In the complaint, Pierce alleges the City of Milwaukee Election Commission rearranged the names of the candidates on the spring general election ballot in violation of Chapter 5 of the Wisconsin Statutes.

Here’s some of Pierce’s complaint:

“Susan M. Edman, Executive Director of the City of Milwaukee Election Commission (“the Commission”), rearranged the names of the candidates on the spring general election ballot in violation of Chapter 5 of the Wisconsin Statutes. The result of the rearrangement gives a preference to at least one incumbent candidate and possibly others. Spring elections are plagued by low turnout and tight margins. Ms. Edman’s actions may well result in incumbents winning races where they otherwise would have lost.

According to Chapter 5 of the Wisconsin Statutes, the Commission (under the direction of Susan Edman) is responsible for randomly drawing the names of the candidates to determine the order of their placement on the ballot. Following the random drawing, the Commission produces a sample ballot reflecting the order in which the candidates will be listed on the final ballot.

Here’s more from Pierce’s complaint:

“The order in which candidates are placed on the ballot is important because first-listed candidates enjoy a vote preference and therefore receive more votes than they otherwise would if not listed first on the ballot. Ensuring that this preference is not uniformly granted to incumbents, challengers, or candidates whose last names begin with letters near the beginning of the alphabet is the reason the Legislature enacted the random drawing procedure prescribed by Chapter 5.

When the Commission randomly drew names to determine the order of the candidate listings on the ballot to be distributed in Milwaukee’s 14th District, my name was drawn first for the aldermanic race. In accordance with this drawing and Chapter 5, the Commission produced and shared with me a sample ballot listing my name first on the ballot. I did not object to this sample ballot or the process by which it was created, and I am unaware of my opponent raising any such objection either.”

According to Pierce’s campaign, early voters have reported that despite Pierce’s name having been listed first on the sample ballot after the Election Commission drew the order of the names, his name is no longer listed first on the ballot, having been replaced by incumbent Alderman Tony Zielinski’s name. According to Jan Pierce, he was not notified of a second drawing for name order on the ballot, nor does there appear to be any record indicating a second drawing was conducted.

“My understanding is that the Commission kept no minutes or records of how or when the alteration of the ballots took place. Conflicting stories are emerging as to the motives for the rearrangement. I understand from another candidate listed on a different ballot that Ms. Edman admitted that she changed the order of the ballot to list the incumbent first, despite the random drawing calling for a challenger to be listed first, because she believed the incumbent would be upset by not being listed first on the ballot. I do not know if this is true, but it is worthy of investigation because of the serious implications for the democratic process and transparency of government.”

Pierce’s complaint to the GAB goes on to note that Susan Edman called Pierce on March 22, 2012 (only 12 days before the election and 3 days after early voting began) to inform him of his name had been switched with Ald. Zielinski’s on the ballot, and according to Pierce Edman admitted that the same name order switching occurred in a number of races. According to Pierce’s complaint Susan Edman denied names were switched on the ballot in order to favor the incumbents.


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6 thoughts on “Pierce campaign files complaint with GAB regarding ballot order switching

  1. What we see here is the same kind of incumbents-uber-alles principle at work that rules in Walkersha County and has driven the crimes associated with the John Doe investigation. It’s un-democratic, it’s anti-American, and apparently it’s one of the few bi-partisan principles at work in WI these days.

    The economic stifling Aldermanic privilege is another instance of this–where the opinion of one member of a neighborhood rules that neighborhood for the purpose of keeping himself in power, rather than engaging in open, transparent, honest American governance.

    We expect more than this kind of 3rd world elections process.

  2. If what is alleged is in fact true,why did Ms.Edman believe the incumbent would be upset by not being listed first on the ballot?
    Does this incumbent believe he deserves special consideration?
    Or perhaps a pattern of this incumbents behavior is what caused her to make this decision.
    I can’t help but to think this is yet another person intimidated by said incumbent.

  3. Do they have a written procedure? How is it documented? If not, I am incredulous on either count.

  4. The initial ballot order that was first drawn is documented here: http://city.milwaukee.gov/ImageLibrary/User/dwalton/BallotPlacement3.pdf

    State statutes indicate ballot order be chose by the following procedure:

    5.60(3)(b) The city clerk or executive director of the city election commission shall arrange the official city ballot under s. 5.62 (4).

    (ag) The county clerk or county board of election commissioners shall designate the official primary ballot arrangement for all candidates filing nomination papers in that office.
    (ar) Within a county the county clerk shall arrange the names of all candidates filing nomination papers with the clerk’s office using the same method as that used by the board under s. 5.60 (1) (b).
    (b) The county board of election commissioners in counties having a population of more than 500,000 shall prepare the official primary ballot. The commissioners shall arrange the names of all candidates for each office whose nomination papers are filed at the county level, using the same method as that used by the government accountability board under s. 5.60 (1) (b).

    5.60(1)(b) (b) The board shall certify the candidates’ names and designate the official ballot arrangement for candidates for state superintendent, justice, court of appeals judge, circuit judge and, if commissioners are elected under s. 200.09 (11) (am), the metropolitan sewerage commission. The arrangement of names of all candidates on the ballot whose nomination papers are filed with the board shall be determined by the board by the drawing of lots not later than the 2nd Tuesday in January, or the next day if the first Tuesday is a holiday. Whenever a primary is held for an office, a 2nd drawing of all candidates for that office shall be held by or under the supervision of the board not later than the 3rd day following the completion of the primary canvass to determine the arrangement of candidates on the election ballot.

    Ballot order is only to be re-drawn if the race has a primary. There were primaries held in only two aldermanic districts this year: District 8 and District 12. However, the order of candidates on the actual ballots printed and in use for voting is different in five aldermanic districts: District 6, District 10, District 11, District 13, and District 14. Interestingly enough, the ordering of candidates in the 2 districts which had primaries remained unchanged between the initial order and the order on the printed general election ballots. However, between the initial ballot order and the order of the actual printed general election ballots, the number of incumbents listed in first position increased from 3 incumbents listed first to 6 incumbents listed first. Out of the five races for which the ballot order was changed, 100% of those were races which did not have primaries and which should not have been redrawn at all, 4 of them (80%) changed to move the incumbent (Coggs, Dudzik, Witkowski, and Zielinski) into first position, and only (20%) changed to move the incumbent (Murphy) into second position.

  5. Correction to that final sentence–it should read that “only 1 (20%) changed to move the incumbent (Murphy) into second position.”

    It may also be noted that incumbents in 6 of the 15 Milwaukee aldermanic districts (Districts 1,2,3,4,5, and 7) had no challengers who achieved ballot status and therefore there was no ordering between multiple candidates.

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