• WisPolitics


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

 9:50 AM 

Judge dismisses GOP suit over GAB ballot design

A Waukesha County judge this morning dismissed a challenge to the GAB's template for ballots to be used in this fall's election.

Judge James Kieffer ruled the campaign committees of Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald did not have standing to file the suit and that a complaint should have been filed with GAB first before the agency was sued. 

Joseph Olson, a lawyer for Vos and Fitzgerald, said no decision had been made on whether to appeal Kieffer's decision or to file a complaint with the GAB.

During the hearing, Olson said the lawsuit was filed because going to the GAB "is obviously a futile process."

Christopher Blythe, an assistant attorney general representing the GAB, responded "even if it would be futile, that is what the statutes say you have to do. It's black-letter law."

The suit argued the GAB's recommended format, which doesn't include shading to set off the offices to be elected or lines to separate the offices from the first candidate listed, will cause confusion among voters. It also argued the format will favor Dem candidates since they'll be listed first in each race this fall. 

The GAB countered ahead of today's hearing the lawsuit was based on a faulty assumption that all counties are required to produce "exact replicas of the GAB template." Rather, the GAB produces a template that "shall be substantially followed" by the counties, which then work with their printers to develop their ballot. Those ballots are submitted to the GAB for review, and staff then works with county clerks to resolve any issues related to the design or layout, according to the agency's court filing.

During the hearing, Kieffer expressed surprise that the ballots in each of the state's 72 counties could be different.

"I was under the impression that the counties just inserted the names of local candidates," he said.

Olson argued that the ballots in 42 counties were flawed. But GAB Director Kevin Kennedy said only 16 were using the exact template ballot put out by his agency for their designs.

Kieffer heard the motion to dismiss before getting to the meat of Olson's argument.

In his oral ruling, Kieffer said the law requires that a complaint first be filed with the GAB. 

"Then and only then is it subject to judicial review," he said.

-- By Marie Rohde


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