The Government Accountability Board will meet at 9 am tomorrow to set the ballot for all six recall elections (for governor, lieutenant governor and four state Senate seats). The staff has recommended that the Board reject the Democrat Party of Wisconsin’s attempt to toss the 6 “protest candidates” the Republican Party of Wisconsin recruited to run as “Democrats” to ensure all 6 recall elections have a May 8 primary and a June 5 general election. From the GAB staff’s analysis (notably completed before the GAB received the RPW response):
Based upon the public statements of the RPW and the protest candidates, as well as literature they have distributed, there is no material dispute regarding the facts related to the challenges, or that the intent of the RPW and the protest candidates is to require all recall elections to take place on June 5, 2012, presumably to benefit the campaigns of the Republican incumbents. The legal dispute is whether Wisconsin Statutes prohibit or penalize such tactics by disqualifying those candidates from having their names included on the election ballot.
In general, Wisconsin election laws do not require an individual to be a member of a political party to seek that party’s nomination in a primary election. The law also does not permit the Board to inquire into the motivations for an individual’s candidacy for office, an exercise which would inevitably lead to the Board, as a government agency, making subjective judements regarding the legitimacy of political candidacies, which would implicate the most protected forms of First Amendments rights of freedom of speech and association. Depending upon one’s political perspective, the statements and actions of the protest candidates may be viewed as justified, clever, micshievous, or misleading. But Board staff cannot determine that they are illegal. They are products of political calculation and decision-making, and as such they can be rewarded or rejected during the course of the campaigns and elections. The purpose of elections is for voters to pass judgement on the ideas and positions of the candidates as they are debated in the crucible of the campaign.
As further outlined below, Board staff concludes that Wisconsin law does not permit the Board to deny ballot access to the protest candidates.
The Board staff went on to explain that neither the existence of an entry line for a political party on the Campaign Registration Statement form nor the existence of same on the Declaration of Candidacy form is required by state statute. Indeed, the staff concluded that portion of the memo thusly:
As stated above, nominees who claim to represent a political party are determined by the candidates and their supporters, not by party officials or government filing officers. Candidates seeking to participate in a primary of one of the parties are not required to prove that they are members of that party or that they have the support of party members or leadership. A candidate may certainly, without interference from the government, be nominated and campaign as a candidate of a party while disavowing any of hte official or stated positions of the party, or may change their stated positions between the time of circulating nomination papers and the election, or even after their election. For these reasons, Board staff believes that the protest candidates have substantially complied with the requirement to complete and file a declaration of candidacy, and the Board does not have the authority to look beyond the document to judge the political motivation or strategy of a candidacy.
Further, the staff held that the nomination papers do not include any requirement that the candidate claim to “have or demonstrate any formal tie to or membership in the political party” listed on the paper, that neither the circulators nor the signers are required to agree with the positions or principles of the named political party, and that no evidence was presented of any individual signer of the nomination papers were “misled” into signing the nomination papers of the protest candidates, much less a sufficient number to knock any of them off the ballot.
Related to that, semi-pro union protestor Arthur Kohl-Riggs will (likely) appear on the Republican governor primary ballot against Scott Walker as he gathered enough nomination signatures. In a normal partisan primary election, participating in the Republican governor primary would prohibit one from voting for Democrats elsewhere on the primary ballot. While that is still true in the governor recall primary cycle (e.g., one cannot vote for both Scott Walker and Kathleen Falk), GAB spokesman Reid Magney has confirmed that since these recall elections are separate entities, one can vote in the Republican governor recall primary and in the Democratic lieutenant governor recall primary and (if in one of the 4 Senate districts where there is a recall), that Democratic recall primary.
One more item of note – a Public Policy Polling poll for DailyKos has Walker up by between 5 percentage points (against Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett), 7 points (against former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk) and 12 points (against state Senator Kathleen Vinehout) among likely voters, reaching at least 50% against all 4 Democrats. In the same poll, Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch is up 46%-40% on Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin president Mahlon Mitchell. The partisan split of that poll was 37% independent, 32% Republican and 31% Democrat, which roughly mirrors recent Rasmussen Reports likely-voter partisan splits in Wisconsin.