RHINELANDER - The Rhinelander City Clerk was correct in throwing mayoral candidate Chris Frederickson off this spring's ballot, according to a decision handed down by the Wisconsin Elections Commission on Monday.
On Jan. 11, City Clerk Val Foley announced Frederickson was ineligible to appear on the ballot due to a lack of valid nominating signatures. Frederickson turned in 75 signatures, more than the required 50, but Foley threw out 56 of the signatures after a challenge by mayoral rival Alex Young. Young contended, and Foley agreed, that an error in dating the nomination papers by Frederickson--and others collecting signatures for him--invalidated some of the pages.
In Monday's decision, the Elections Commission agreed to keep Frederickson off the ballot.
"The City Clerk did not abuse her discretion in reaching the decision that Mr. Frederickson's nomination papers were insufficient when filed and were not corrected in a timely manner through an affidavit," Commission Chair Mark Thomsen wrote in a letter. "The City Clerk's challenge decision contained sufficient legal support, and the Commission will not overturn that decision."
The race to replace the retiring Dick Johns as Rhinelander mayor started with three candidates: Young, Frederickson, and Scott Counter. Young challenged the signatures collected by Frederickson and Counter, leading to Foley's removal of the two from the ballot. Frederickson filed a complaint with the Elections Commission on Jan. 16; Counter chose not to pursue the matter further.
Monday's Elections Commission decision ensures Young will appear as the only candidate for Rhinelander mayor on the Feb. 20 primary election ballot and Apr. 3 general election. Frederickson told Newswatch 12 in a text message on Tuesday he plans to run as a write-in candidate. Counter may choose to do the same.
In a city the size of Rhinelander, mayoral candidates must collect at least 50 valid nominating signatures. The candidates or their representatives circulate nominating forms, which the collector must sign and date after they're complete.
On seven of Frederickson's eight nomination pages, and on four of Counter's six pages, the date written by the collector was before a date of one of the signers.
Wisconsin Administrative Code Chapter EL 2.05(14), which states "no signature on a nomination paper shall be counted unless the elector who circulated the nomination paper completes and signs the certification of circulator and does so after, not before, the paper is circulated."
Young challenged signatures from each candidate on this basis, and, after Foley reviewed the submitted signatures, she agreed with Young and removed Frederickson and Counter from the ballot.
Frederickson filed several "correcting affidavits" with Foley soon after, arguing, in part, that a "mere technicality should not prevent the citizens of Rhinelander from making their choice from a full slate of candidates." His affidavits included statements from three of Frederickson's friends who circulated nominating papers. Each said they had incorrectly dated the certification field.
However, the Elections Commission ruled that affidavits "do not function as an appended document to the original nomination paper" and aren't sufficient to put Frederickson over the top.
Elections Commission Chair Mark Thomsen made Monday's ruling. It was not reviewed by the entire commission, according to Elections Commission Public Information Officer Reid Magney.
Frederickson can file a suit disputing the Elections Commission's ruling in circuit court. If he does so, he must file within 30 days.
Click the link below to read the ruling by the Elections Commission.
Story By: Ben Meyer