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.