MILWAUKEE — A big deadline for Milwaukee’s special mayoral election just passed. Candidates had until 5 p.m. Tuesday to submit their nomination papers to get on the ballot.
According to the city’s election commission’s online records, six candidates submitted at least 1,500 signatures on time. The list includes Marina Dimitrijevic, Bob Donovan, Cavalier Johnson, Earnell Lucas, Michael Sampson and Lena Taylor.
Milwaukee election commission records show that candidates Nick McVey, Tearman Spencer, Joel Paplham and Wenona Gardner didn't submit their nomination papers in time to join the race. Sheila Conley-Patterson submitted an "insufficient number of signatures", according to online records. Records also show Ieshuh Griffin's nomination papers were insufficient for ballot placement.
Milwaukee mayoral candidates and their volunteers or hired help spent the past two and a half weeks gathering enough signatures to make it on the February ballot. Now that those nomination papers have been submitted, candidates have the opportunity to challenge their competitors’ signatures.
Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Claire Woodall-Vogg says her office is already starting to review the nomination papers.
"We don't go through with a fine-tooth comb as far as making sure that each person only signed one nomination signature page, but we do verify that we can read every voter's name and their address," said Woodall-Vogg.
Each candidate has until Friday to challenge their competitors’ signatures that raise red flags. Woodall-Vogg says Milwaukee voters can only sign their support for one candidate. If they’re found on another candidate’s nomination papers, that signature would be considered invalid.
"Once they turned them in, our staff go through each line making sure that the elector has printed their name, signed, we confirm that it's a valid address in the city of Milwaukee, and that they signed and dated before the circulator dates," Woodall-Vogg said.
Just two years ago, a candidate for Milwaukee County Executive challenged signatures gathered for two other candidates and it ultimately kept them off the ballot.
"They were canvassing in a neighborhood and while they were canvassing they would have the same people sign the nomination papers for candidates that were running for the same office,” Neil Albrecht said.
Albrecht was Milwaukee’s election administrator at the time and followed the challenge closely. An investigation found that 2020 Milwaukee County Executive candidates David Crowley, Bryan Kennedy and Jim Sullivan unknowingly hired the same Milwaukee firm to circulate their nomination papers, which is against state law.
"The concept of hiring someone to circulate nomination papers became a bit of a lightning rod in that discussion,” Albrecht said.
"It's very unusual in the city of Milwaukee because so many mayors who have been elected, they stay in office forever," said Alderman Michael Murphy.
Crowley was allowed to remain on the ballot because nomination paper circulators collected signatures for his campaign first. The state’s elections commission ordered that Kennedy and Sullivan lose all of the signatures obtained by the same firm, leaving them without enough signatures to qualify.
Albrecht says that’s why candidates in Milwaukee’s mayoral race will submit far more than the required 1,500 signatures. Candidates for Milwaukee mayor can submit up to 3,000 signatures.
"Know what is going on in the circulation of your nomination papers and make sure that you secure a surplus beyond the minimum number, so that if some do get disqualified you don't end up losing your ballot placement status,” Albrecht said.
If a candidate has their signatures challenged by Friday, they will have a couple days to respond to the election commission to explain what happened. Woodall-Vogg says certified candidates will learn of their random placement on the February ballot no later than Monday night, Jan. 17.