Absentee ballots are supposed to go out in the mail Tuesday, Jan. 28, but exactly what they will look like in Superior’s 5th District remains uncertain.
The council district surrounding Central Park may or may not have a primary election Tuesday, Feb. 18 after the nomination papers of one of the candidates was called into question.
The Wisconsin Elections Commission has been tasked with determining whether Councilor Brent Fennessey should appear on the ballot after Garner Moffat, a 4th District resident, challenged some of the signatures after errors were made in certifying the petition.
The commission's decision was pending as of the Telegram’s deadline.
Moffat’s contention is that signatures added after the petitions were certified by Fennessey shouldn’t have been included in determining the sufficiency of the nomination. That would leave Fennessey with only 18 valid signatures for the nomination.
State law requires candidates in district races in second- and third-class cities to gather 20-40 signatures from people in their district to appear on the ballot.
Fennessey gathered 26 signatures on three pages. A fourth page, containing two signatures, wasn’t certified by Fennessey and wasn’t included in the final tally to determine his eligibility to appear on the ballot, said Terri Kalan, city clerk.
Moffat’s original complaint was dropped off at the City Clerk's office around 4:25 p.m. Friday, Jan. 10, according to a letter sent to Moffat and Fennessey by Kalan on Monday, Jan. 13. Staff members who were still in the office immediately scanned the complaint and sent it to Kalan and City Attorney Frog Prell.
Kalan said she contacted Fennessey and advised him he had until 5 p.m. to file an affidavit of correction.
“Specifically, Mr. Fennessey indicated, under oath, that he used the beginning circulating date where he should have used the end circulation date,” Kalan wrote in the response to Moffat’s complaint.
Fennessey filed a hand-written affidavit with the city clerk at 4:59 p.m. Jan. 10 stating the date on the petitions certifying them should have been Dec. 23, when he stopped circulating nomination papers.
Wisconsin administrative code does allow for affidavits of correction within three calendar days of the statutory due date, which was 5 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 7.
Kalan determined Fennessey met the requirements to appear on the ballot.
Moffat appealed Kalan’s decision to the Wisconsin Elections Commission in a letter dated Friday, Jan. 17, challenging the timing of the affidavit because the City Clerk’s Office had already closed for the day when the affidavit was signed.
“Our understanding of the law sets the deadline at 5 p.m. or whenever the office closes on Friday the 10th,” Moffat wrote in his complaint to the Wisconsin Elections Commission. “As the office was closed and locked by 4:42 p.m., regular closing is listed as 4:30 p.m., and the only working employee had left the office and prevented further complaints from being filed, we must find that the office was closed and further actions could not be taken.”
After 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 21, Kalan received an email from the Wisconsin Elections Commission staff counsel, giving her 10 business days to respond to Moffat’s complaint and seeking confirmation of her office’s business hours on Jan. 10.
Kalan said she expected the response to go out Thursday, Jan. 23, once the city attorney finished reviewing it.
Moffat will have 10 days to consider her response.
Once a determination is made by the Wisconsin Elections Commission, Kalan said the company that provides the city’s ballots will send out an electronic ballot document she can print in her office to ensure all absentee voters get their ballots on time.
In addition to the complaint in Superior, the Wisconsin Elections Commission has been investigating complaints from Milwaukee and Oconomowoc. A Milwaukee mayoral candidate and two Milwaukee County executive candidates were denied ballot access Tuesday, Jan. 21 after it was determined their nominations were insufficient.