The current version of the Wisconsin Election Commission was foisted on Wisconsin by former governor Scott Walker and his Republican junta in the Capitol. Its job is to administer and enforce Wisconsin election law. The commission consists of three Democrats and three Republicans. The commissioners are appointed by the governor and the leaders of the Assembly and Senate. So by its very definition it is a partisan organization with an equal number of members from each party…just automatically designed to butt heads. It replaced what became the model for other states to copy, the Government Accountability Board (GAB) made up of six retired judges.
Now, the Wisconsin Election Commission came into the headlines recently when it became part of the squabble over nomination papers in the Milwaukee County Executive race…something that we wrote about several times in the previous few weeks. I am not going to find fault with the ruling from the WEC. It may certainly be correct since it was upheld by two courts. But I do have major issues with how the decision was reached.
So a little background. There were some irregularities discovered in how signatures were collected by three campaigns for county exec. It is against election law for one person to collect signatures for more than one candidate in a given race. And all three campaigns shared solicitors. A fourth campaign filed a complaint with the Milwaukee County Elections committee and because of a technicality there, the two candidates in violation remained on the ballot.
The original complainant appealed to the Wisconsin Election Commission. And now keep in mind that there are SIX commissioners. But here is what happened in Madison according to the media:
The commission released two eight-page decisions detailing their ruling to remove the candidates from the ballot and dismissing the arguments made by each campaign before the Milwaukee County Election Commission.
The full six-member commission didn’t vote on the matter — staff made a recommendation to Administrator Meagan Wolfe. She consulted with Commission Chair Dean Knudson, who approved the decisions.
He decided it was not necessary to call a meeting of the full commission to discuss or vote on the complaints, Wisconsin Elections Commission spokesman Reid Magney said via email. Magney added that the commission usually delegates these kinds of decisions to the administrator.emphasis mine
Let’s keep in mind that we have SIX commissioners…and one chairman made the decision. On the recommendation of staff. WEC took TWO candidates off the ballot with the vote of one person…an appointee. There were no questions raised about the actual signatures on the nomination papers. So the 4,000+ people who signed were disenfranchised by one appointed commissioner.
Given the supposed sanctity of the vote and the right to choose your preferred candidate, access to the ballot shouldn’t be decided by one appointed commissioner. In an era where we are fighting gerrymandering and other voter suppression efforts, we shouldn’t allow ballot decisions to fall on the shoulders of one appointee. It is bad enough that we have put it in the hands of a partisan commission like the WEC.
It’s not likely to happen while the Republicans control the legislature, but the makeup and actions of WEC should be re-examined and re-aligned to produce results that protect the vote of every eligible voter in Wisconsin. And at least the whole commission should be required to vote before removing candidates from the ballot.
BTW: how do any of you independents or Green Partiers or members of other parties feel about a commission filled with just Democrats and Republicans.