Commission to decide on ballot access challenges

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Two Democratic gubernatorial candidates and a Republican U.S. Senate candidate turned in enough valid nomination signatures to get on the ballot, state elections officials confirmed Monday.

Wisconsin GOP Executive Director Mark Morgan filed complaints with the Elections Commission against Democratic candidates Dana Wachs and Andy Gronik alleging neither of them had 2,000 valid signatures, the minimum needed to secure a spot on the ballot.

Morgan alleged a Wachs circulator didn’t indicate the municipality in his or her address; other signatures didn’t contain a full address with the type of street they live on such as an avenue or boulevard; and signers didn’t print their names legibly, among other issues.

A commission staff review found 2,252 valid signatures. The staff recommended putting Wachs on the ballot.

Morgan also claimed two Gronik circulators weren’t qualified to collect signatures because they’re convicted felons, his circulators didn’t fully identify their respective municipalities in their certifications and circulators completed signers’ addresses.

Commission staff determined both circulators with felony convictions had completed their sentences and circulators can enter municipality information on signers’ addresses. The staff concluded Gronik has 3,602 valid signatures.

The commission voted unanimously to adopt the staff’s recommendations and place both Wachs and Gronik on the ballot.

Wachs and Gronik are among 10 Democrats vying for the chance to challenge Republican Gov. Scott Walker. The primary is set for Aug. 14 with the general election to follow on Nov. 6.

Conservative activist Richard Strohm, meanwhile, alleged that some of GOP U.S. Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson’s signatures were dated after the circulator certified the nomination papers and Nicholson’s circulators weren’t Wisconsin residents.

Commission staff reviewed Strohm’s complaint and found they already had struck post-certification signatures. State law says circulators must be a qualified Wisconsin voter or a U.S. citizen who would be qualified to vote in Wisconsin if he or she lived here, the review found.

The staff recommended the commission declare that Nicholson has 3,906 valid signatures. The commission adopted the recommendation unanimously Monday.

Nicholson had asked the commission to declare the challenge frivolous, which would mean a $500 forfeiture for Strohm. Commission attorney Michael Haas wrote in a memo that the complaint “entirely ignores” case law but it’s not clear a frivolous forfeiture applies to nomination paper challenges and the commission didn’t honor the request.

Nicholson will square off against Republican state Sen. Leah Vukmir in the August primary. The winner will move on to face incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

The commission upheld challenges to four legislative candidates’ papers and denied each one ballot access — Republican Jim Duncan in the 57th Assembly District; Democrat Maria Villareal in the 8th Assembly District; Libertarian Thomas Leager in the 76th Assembly District; and Democrat Charisse Daniels in the 37th Assembly District.

The Republican Assembly Campaign Committee alleged Daniels forged 40 signatures on her nomination papers. Daniels didn’t file a response to the complaint. Elections Commission staff determined she filed 193 valid signatures, seven shy of the 200 she needed to get on the ballot.

Police in Watertown announced last week they were investigating potential election fraud in the 37th but didn’t elaborate or say whether the probe involves Daniels. The commission spent about a half-hour Monday in closed session discussing the RACC’s request that the agency launch its own investigation into her activities. Commission Chairman Dean Knudson declined to comment on what the panel decided, saying the discussions are confidential under state law.