Journal Times editorial: The Devil is in the details for candidates
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Journal Times editorial: The Devil is in the details for candidates

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We’re always saddened when candidates for public office get dumped off the ballot for technical violations of election rules.

We have the utmost respect for the citizens among us who step up to do public service and put their names and reputations on the line — and before voters — in their desire to do something for their communities.

So we winced last week when we read that three candidates — one here in Racine and two in Milwaukee County — were stripped of their chances to run for office because they didn’t follow the law in filing their nomination papers.

The one here in Racine for a spot on the ballot for 4th District alderman was particularly niggling and it cost William Leverson a spot on the ballot. A supporter of Leverson collected signatures for his nomination, but in filling out the nomination forms she listed her Racine address, but did not include the municipality itself — Racine. Three sheets of nomination papers collected by the supporter were tossed and that put Leverson below the number of signatures needed to get on the ballot.

That’s pretty petty — but those are the rules.

Up in Milwaukee County, two candidates for county executive — one former state Sen. Jim Sullivan and the other Bryan Kennedy, the mayor of Glendale — similarly got the heave-ho when another county executive candidate, Milwaukee County Board Chairman Theodore Lipscomb, challenged their nomination papers.

Both of them were tossed from the race after a ruling by the Wisconsin Elections Commission and then a court challenge, which upheld the commission’s ruling.

They, too, fell below the needed signature levels — 2,000 for Milwaukee County executive — after they outsourced their signature-gathering on their nomination papers to a commercial firm — an outfit called Sweet Black Coffee shop, run by Simon Warren, a Milwaukee community organizer.

Frankly, we had no idea that a cottage industry has apparently grown up around collecting signatures to put candidates on the ballot. In our naivete we had always thought that candidates themselves and their supporters went door to door or stood at factory gates extolling the virtues of the candidate himself. Those days are apparently gone, outsourced to professional nomination paper hangers.

We don’t like that. It seems to us the whole idea of nomination papers is to demonstrate a candidate has personal support from members of the community and a professional signature-collection agency doesn’t demonstrate that in any way, shape or form.

And, as Sullivan and Kennedy soon found out, state law frowns in it as well.

It turns out that nomination paper circulators cannot collect signatures for two candidates for the same office. In this case, Sweet Black Coffee was circulating papers for not two, but three candidates. Under the law, which the state Election Commission cited, that meant the first candidate whose petitions were circulated by the paid circulators — state Rep. David Crowley, D-Milwaukee — remained on the ballot, but Sullivan and Kennedy got tossed when their signatures fell below the 2,000 mark.

Sullivan and Kennedy tried to argue they didn’t know the signature-collection agency was gathering signatures for other candidates.

That, of course, falls under the category of ignorance of the law is no excuse. When someone runs for office and wants to conduct the public’s business — spend tax dollars, oversee government offices and direct policy — they should know the law or get it explained to them and pay attention to details. Even niggling ones.

Candidates for public office — any office — should adhere to the old standard of the “Santa clause”; you know the one: “Making a list, checking it twice ….” Or even three times. And don’t outsource it.

When someone runs for office and wants to conduct the public’s business — spend tax dollars, oversee government offices and direct policy — they should know the law or get it explained to them and pay attention to details

When someone runs for office and wants to conduct the public’s business — spend tax dollars, oversee government offices and direct policy — they should know the law or get it explained to them and pay attention to details

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