For the first time in quite a while, the Milwaukee County Election Commission made the news and came into the awareness of a lot more Milwaukee area eligible voters. If you have been reading along (HERE and HERE), you’ll note that they have had a significant effect on who you can vote for in the Milwaukee County Executive Primary on February 18th.
Let’s go into what we know. There is a state election law that prohibits a campaign solicitor from gathering signatures on nomination papers for more than one candidate in the same race. Three candidates in the Milwaukee County Executive race used the same firm to hire solicitors and they hired the same solicitors to collect signatures for all three candidates. The law specifically says the earliest signatures collected are legal and the others are not and violate the law. So one candidate is held harmless and two were in violation. A fourth candidate filed a complaint with the Milwaukee County Election Commission and…
There are three commissioners on the Milwaukee County Election Commission. Therefore a quorum is two. In the hearing for the Milwaukee County Exec complaint, only two commissioners were available to meet and consider the complaint. The vote was a one to one tie and under commission rules, a tie dismisses a complaint. So the status quo stands and the two candidates held in violation of the law would be able to appear on the primary ballot.
Whether you agree with this outcome or not, you have to question a system that controls something as important as access to the ballot can be ruled by a tie goes to the runner.
In a county as populous as Milwaukee County, does it make sense to only have three election commissioners? Would five be better…then a quorum would be three and the possibility of tie votes somewhat reduced.
Of course we still have the very real possibilities for tie votes. Three commissioners in attendance, but one abstains or recuses themselves and then a one to one tie. Similar with five I guess…or a quorum of four for that matter…where even with all attendees voting…we have a two to two tie.
And is a tie vote resulting in a dismissal of a complaint the best solution? Certainly anyone filing a complaint expects that complaint to be seriously considered and voted on and not dismissed by a fairly frivolous rule. The end result of the Milwaukee Election Commission tie was an appeal to the Wisconsin Election Commission. Should the law require an automatic appeal to the state commission anytime there is a deadlock at the county level? Both the complainant and the candidates are due their day in ‘court’.
All voices should be heard and all remedies considered before candidates are removed from the ballot. No one is contesting the actual signatures on the nomination papers, only the solicitors who gathered them. Should 4,000+ eligible voters have their voices silenced on a ‘whim’? Should the rest of the Milwaukee County electorate have fewer choices because of an arcane law? The law apparently is an anti-corruption vehicle, but apparently I am not sufficiently nefarious to understand what is being prevented.
But I urge the newly elected and seated Milwaukee County board to review and expand and revise as necessary, the Milwaukee County Election Commission before the next round of county elections. All eligible voters need to feel that their vote counts and their elections mean something…and that they are free to be able to vote from all the qualified candidates who have the audacity to run for public office.