MADISON – The Green Party presidential nominee is asking the state Supreme Court to put his name on Wisconsin’s ballot, but election officials are arguing it’s likely too late to do so.
The Wisconsin Elections Commission didn’t include the Green Party ticket on the ballot when it deadlocked last month over whether its candidates had properly submitted their campaign paperwork.
The commission’s three Republicans voted to put Green Party presidential nominee Howie Hawkins and vice-presidential nominee Angela Walker on the ballot, but the three Democrats on the commission voted against doing so.
Whether they get on the ballot could play a role in who wins Wisconsin this fall. Democrats fear the Green Party candidates could pick off votes that would otherwise go to Joe Biden. Republicans hope to see that happen so President Donald Trump can win Wisconsin, as he narrowly did in 2016.
Republicans also hoped to get rapper Kanye West on the ballot, but the Elections Commission voted 5-1 to keep him off the ballot because his paperwork was filed late. West has sued in Brown County Circuit Court and there’s a hearing in that case on Wednesday afternoon.
Hawkins and Walker last week asked the state Supreme Court to put them on the ballot. They went straight to the Supreme Court instead of a lower court because absentee ballots need to be ready by next week for the Nov. 3 election.
But in court filings this week, the state’s top elections official suggested there isn’t time to put Hawkins and Walker on the ballot. Some ballots have likely already been mailed to voters, according to an affidavit from Meagan Wolfe, the executive director of the Elections Commission.
“It would be catastrophic to this election if ballots were to change after being sent to some or all electors,” she said in her affidavit. “Municipalities that have already begun sending ballots would have to send a second ballot, which could result in voters returning the wrong ballot or multiple ballots. This would create a chaotic situation for election officials in paring and counting returned ballots.”
Even if no ballots have gone out, changing them now would be exceedingly difficult, she said. Preparing ballots takes weeks because some counties require dozens of versions of ballots. They must be printed on a specific type of paper and most of them have to be tested to make sure they can be properly read by optical scanners.
Few vendors can print them and those that can are in high demand during election season.
“If counties had to delay printing or re-print ballots, they would have to rejoin the printer queue and would not meet the deadline for distributing ballots to municipalities (September 16), and municipalities would miss the deadlines for sending ballots to absentee voters (September 17) and military and overseas voters (September 19),” Wolfe said in her affidavit.
Hawkins campaign manager Andrea Mérida Cuéllar said the Green Party does not believe any ballots have been sent to Wisconsin voters yet.
“We feel that with a speedy turnaround in a decision by the court, any of the guidelines for mailing to voters will be met,” she said by email.
Nearly a million Wisconsin voters have already requested absentee ballots and under state law those are to be mailed on Sept. 17. Absentee voting is expected to hit record levels this fall because of the coronavirus pandemic.
At issue in the ballot dispute is Walker’s address. She listed two different addresses in Florence, South Carolina, on petitions to get on the ballot. The Green Party says that’s because Walker moved in the middle of the signature-gathering period.
All sides are watching the case closely.
Jill Stein, the 2016 Green Party nominee, received more than 31,000 votes in Wisconsin — more than Trump’s margin of about 22,000 votes.
Contact Patrick Marley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @patrickdmarley.