Members of the state Elections Commission deadlock on whether to let Green Party on presidential ballot

Members of the state Elections Commission deadlocked late Thursday on whether to allow the Green Party presidential and vice presidential candidates on the Wisconsin ballot this November, making it likely the courts will decide the issue. 

On a 3-3 vote, the bipartisan commission failed to pass a motion to block Green Party presidential candidate Howie Hawkins and vice presidential candidate Angela Walker from appearing on the Wisconsin ballot. The panel then tied again on whether to certify the pair for the state ballot. 

The commission is made up of three Democratic and three Republican appointees. On both votes, the Democrats came out against the two Green Party candidates, while the Republicans cast their votes in their favor.

“Maybe this is an issue that needs to go to court,” Commissioner Robert Spindell, a Milwaukee Republican, said during a lengthy and often heated meeting. 

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Unspoken throughout the meeting was the outsized role that the leftist Green Party played in the last election. 

In 2016, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein received more than 31,000 votes in Wisconsin, votes that many believe could have helped Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. President Donald Trump won Wisconsin by a little more than 22,000 votes. 

Earlier this month, Madison attorney Jeffrey Mandell filed a complaint saying the nomination papers circulated in support of the Green Party presidential ticket listed two different addresses for Walker. Some petitions said she lived on TV Road in Florence, South Carolina, and the others said she resided on Royal Street in Florence.

Mandell urged the commission to keep the Green Party candidates off the Wisconsin ballots because of the discrepancy with the addresses. 

Green Party officials did not officially respond to the challenge. 

But Andrea Merida, co-chair of the national Green Party, said at Thursday’s hearing that Walker had moved while the signatures were being collected. Merida said the issue of Walker’s address shouldn’t matter when deciding if the party got on the ballot.

Merida noted that in 1980, independent candidate John Anderson even changed his running mate between the time he circulated nomination papers and when the election occurred. 

But Democrats on the Elections Commission said they could not accept hearsay evidence or take steps on their own to gather evidence showing Walker had moved during the nomination process. 

“Why are we being asked to do the campaign’s job?” said Mark Thomsen, a Democratic appointee. 

But Republican Commissioner Dean Knudson said it was clear, based on the dates on the ballot petitions, that Walker had moved on either July 29 or 30. The only fair thing to do, Knudson said, would be to put the Green Party candidates on the ballot. 

Besides, Knudson said, if the commission didn’t do it, the courts likely would. 

“Everybody needs to get a fair shake,” said Knudson, a former state representative. 

But the bipartisan panel couldn’t resolve the issue.

In the end, the commission voted to certify 1,789 votes for the petitions with Walker’s Royal Street address but stipulated that it couldn’t decide if it should allow the 1,834 signatures on petitions with the TV Road address. 

The Green Party needs 2,000 certified signatures to be certified to appear on the November ballot. 

Contact Daniel Bice at (414) 224-2135 or dbice@jrn.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanielBice or on Facebook at fb.me/daniel.bice.