MADISON (AP) — Wisconsin's elections board voted unanimously Tuesday to allow six Republicans running as Democrats to appear on the ballot in recall elections this spring targeting Gov. Scott Walker and five other Republicans.
The state Government Accountability Board's decision ensures all six races will have a primary election on May 8 and the deciding general election for Walker and the others will be June 5.
The board agreed with the recommendation of its staff that the candidates should be allowed to run because state law doesn't require people to prove they belong to any political party before they can seek office. Board attorney Mike Haas said the board isn't required to determine the motivation of a candidate's political affiliation.
"I think it would be bad precedent for us to go that far and delve into why they're running on the Republican or Democratic ticket," said board member Thomas Cane.
Democrats objected, saying the candidates shouldn't be allowed to appear on the ballot because they falsely identified themselves as Democrats and therefore filed fraudulent paperwork with elections officials.
"There is no question that in this instance these six candidates knowingly filed false information," Democratic attorney Jeremy Levinson told the board. "This is a scheme to manipulate the election."
Levinson said he was considering filing a lawsuit to get the candidates removed from the ballot.
Republican Party attorney Joe Olson said there was nothing in the law that prevented Republicans to run as Democrats. They submitted the required signatures and should be allowed on the ballot, Olson said.
"This state has an open primary system," he said. "These candidates are allowed to run under any political party they want."
The Republican Party openly recruited the candidates to run as fake Democrats. The move ensures a Democratic primary will be held in every race on May 8. That means no Republican incumbent will have to face a general election that day, when Democrats will be out in force to pick their gubernatorial challenger.
Republicans used the same tactic in recall elections last summer targeting six GOP state senators. None of the fake candidates defeated the real Democrat in the primary.
Democratic candidates will work to educate voters about the fake candidates, just like they did last year, said Brad Wojciechowski, spokesman for the committee working to elect Democrats to the Senate.
"It just goes to show that the GOP will stoop to any level to delay and confuse the voters," he said. "What they don't understand is the voters are educated to know the difference between the real candidate and a zombie candidate."
One of the real Democrats running for the state Senate told the board that allowing the fakes on the ballot will confuse voters.
"A voter asked me if the ballot would indicate which candidates were fake and which were real," Lori Compas said. "This is truly a bizarre situation. People need to be able to trust the names on the ballot."
Compas is challenging Republican Senate Leader Scott Fitzgerald in the 13th Senate district. The fake Democrat running is Gary Ellerman. Libertarian Terry Virgil is also running.
Fitzgerald is one of three senators facing a recall, along with Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch. A fourth Senate seat is also up for election. The senator targeted for recall, Pam Galloway, resigned after the recall petitions were filed but Republican state Rep. Jerry Petrowski is now seeking the seat.
The recalls were largely motivated over the Walker proposal, passed last year by the Republican-controlled Legislature, which effectively ended collective bargaining rights for most public workers.
The other fake Democrats running are Gladys Huber for governor, Isaac Weix for lieutenant governor, Tamra Varebrook for the 21st Senate district, James Engel in the 23rd Senate district and Jim Buckley in the 29th Senate district.
Arthur Kohl-Riggs, a Walker opponent, is running as a Republican in the governor's race primary. Kohl-Riggs identifies himself as a progressive Republican in the tradition of Abraham Lincoln and Bob La Follette. But he has also said his goal is to ensure Republicans have to vote in their party's primary and not try to manipulate which Democratic candidate advances to face Walker.
No one challenged his appearance on the ballot, which the board approved.
"As far as I know, the dude's a Republican," Levinson said of Kohl-Riggs.
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