Milwaukee election head less than candid about ballot snafu? | WisCommunity

Milwaukee election head less than candid about ballot snafu?

A mixup at the Milwaukee Elections Commission, which didn't follow state law in drawing to see the order of candidates for alderman on Tuesday's ballot, will benefit a number of incumbents. And the challengers, as you might expect, aren't happy.

Ray Harmon (pictured)and Jan Pierce have filed complaints.

That aside, there's also the question of why the city's election commission head went out of her way to fix the ballot for one incumbent and didn't bother to look at the other races. Her explanation is less than totally transparent, it appears.

But let's back up. A Journal Sentinel explains:

Under state law, the names of local candidates are placed on the ballot after a random drawing conducted by the city's Election Commission staff for each election to determine the position of each candidate.

That means the drawing for ballot position for candidates not facing a primary should have been determined in the January drawing only, said Reid Magney, a spokesman for the GAB.

After the February primary, a drawing should have been held for those candidates involved in the primary only, he said. But there was a second name-drawing that included all of the candidates, and that was a mistake, he said.

"In a number of these elections, the candidates' positions on the ballot were changed," [Election Commission Executive Director Sue] Edman says in a news release.

"In one specific race, for the 9th Aldermanic District, the ballot placement of the candidate was not affected by the erroneous draw because the person finalizing the ballot knew the original draw position," Edman says.

Let's stop right there. The "person finalizing the ballot" was not some nameless bueaucract. It was Edman. Back to the story:

Edman said [Alderman Robert]Puente's name appears first because in January after the first draw he called to ask whether he was number one and he was. Then when she was programming the election and entering the names, Edman said, she saw that Puente's name was second and "in the wrong position."

She said she asked what had happened and an assistant whom she directed to draw names after the primary said all the candidates' name had been placed in the drawing and Puente came in second.

"There wasn't supposed to be a second draw," Edman said. So she called the printer and put Puente's name back in first position because she remembered his name had been drawn first in the first election, she said.

She said she didn't check the other names to make sure they were correct, which she now admits was a mistake.

She added that Puente was the only one to call about the name placement.

When [challenger Ray]Harmon called and asked about the switch, she said, she explained the mistake.

"And I said, I'm sure Ald. Puente would have been very unhappy at the polling site to find out his name was second and not first," she said she told Harmon.

That's not exactly how Harmon remembers it.


According to Harmon, what Edman told him was: “I took it upon myself” to move Puente back to the first ballot position because the alderman would be ' 'furious' and “march down here and give me trouble."

That's a little different. And Edman and Puente are both former Milwaukee police officers, so she probably knows what he's like when he's furious.

That still doesn't explain why she didn't check the other districts, though.

“Ultimately, this isn’t about me. It’s about the electoral process,” said Harmon. “Everything she said concerned me. Not only is she showing her own impartiality towards Puente, but she also feels that she was going to be bullied if she didn’t act in this way. There is no oversight or transparency right now for this process. When elected in April, that’s one of the first things I’ll work to reverse.”

“Ms. Edman clearly was trying to sweep these issues under the rug in her press release,”said Harmon. “I’m disappointed at the lack of professionalism and accountability inside City Hall.”

And when you do anything to cast down on the election process, it opens the door for those who want to claim fraud and use it as another excuse to make it harder for people to vote.

Harmon and Jan Pierce, who's running in District 14, both have filed complaints with the state Government Accountbility Board.

It's a common belief that being first on the ballot gives a candidate a slight advantage. I, for one, remain unconvinced.

The commission's release last week also invites voters to visit the city website for a sample ballot, but that leads to the Government Accounability Board and an Internet dead end.


March 28, 2012 - 3:40pm