From his facebook page . . . in case that is not your thing.
My name is Arthur Kohl-Riggs and I am a candidate for Alder in Madison’s 2nd district. However, due to a series of events, I may not be appearing on the ballot for the February 19 primary.
As some news outlets have already reported, the Madison City Clerk decided on Monday, January 7, 2013 that my name would not appear on the ballot because I did not submit a form, called the “Statement of Economic Interest,” by the deadline of 5 pm on January 3, 2013. I do not dispute this fact.
I am writing this letter to explain how this situation came about, and to express my deep disappointment in the process that allowed this oversight to happen.
I decided in November of 2012 that I wanted to run for Alder in Madison’s 2nd District. I registered my campaign committee with the Madison City Clerk, and inquired about the ballot access process. I was given a stack of documents, and directed by the City Clerk staff to the ”Ballot Access Checklist for 2013 Municipal Candidates” on the website for the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board.
Over the course of the following week as I was establishing my campaign team and strategy, I referred to the Government Accountability Board (GAB) website to which I explicitly had been directed by the Madison City Clerk staff. The website appeared as it appears below:
“Click on the headings below for ALL forms necessary to become a candidate.” http://gab.wi.gov/elections-voting/candidates
As it clearly states under “Ballot Access Information”, I was led to believe that the link would include “all forms necessary to become a candidate”. Following the link to the “Local Candidates” page, and then to the page for “Non-Partisan Ballot Access Documents”, I found the Checklist, which has four documents listed. The fourth one, the “Statement of Economic Interest” is clearly marked (in various places) as being “for Municipal Judges only”.
“Statement of Economic Interests (for Municipal Judges only)” http://gab.wi.gov/elections-voting/candidates/local/non-partisan
Over the course of the next few weeks I went about launching my campaign; developing my platform, soliciting donations, knocking on doors, producing literature, and collecting my nomination signatures, getting almost twice as many as were needed.
In the early afternoon on January 3, 2013 I went to the Madison City Clerk’s office, nomination signatures in hand, and delivered them to a staff member. I asked the staff person who took my signatures if there was anything else that I needed to do. She said that I was all set, and I left the office believing that I had completed all the necessary steps to appear on the ballot.
The following Saturday at an endorsement interview I ran into one of my opponents. At that time, my opponent’s campaign manager asked me if I was going to be on the ballot because he saw that I hadn’t filed my “Statement of Economic Interest”. I was confused by his question, and when I got home I looked at the Madison City Clerk’s website where it lists the filing status of prospective candidates. On that site, I saw that all the candidates except for myself and one other candidate for District 2, Colin Bowden, had a note that they had filed their SEI’s.
At that point I realized that there had been some sort of miscommunication, and immediately filed my SEI on the Madison City Clerk website, and contacted the City Clerk explaining what had happened.
On Monday, I called the City Clerk to follow-up on my filing status and was told that their lawyer was reviewing the details of the situation, and that I would be contacted when they had any information for me. A few hours later I received a phone call, not from the City Clerk, but from a reporter informing me that I was not going to appear on the ballot and asking me how I felt about it.
I immediately contacted my campaign team, and we wrote up an official complaint that we delivered on Tuesday to the Madison City Clerk. When I delivered it to the Clerk’s office, I asked what recourse I had to challenge the decision that they had made. They once again misinformed me by saying that my only course of action was through the courts. Later that day when filing the same complaint with the GAB, I was told by their staff that there was an option of requesting an official review by the GAB.
This entire process has left me disappointed and frustrated with both the Madison City Clerk’s Office and also the GAB. I acknowledge that there were other resources that contained the correct information, but I had no reason to believe that the information on the GAB website was incomplete or incorrect. I diligently followed the specific instructions that I was directed to by City Clerk staff.
It is my hope that this problem can be resolved, that the Madison City Clerk and the GAB can acknowledge their mistakes (as I have), and that I can be put back on the ballot. Whether or not I am able to appear on the ballot it is imperative that the GAB remove or update any misleading content from their website.
The Madison City Clerk made several undeniable missteps, as I have documented above. I hope that they will be more careful in the future to give complete and accurate information to prospective candidates. Moreover, it has come to my attention that a sitting member of the Madison Common Council, Alder Mike Verveer, after seeing that our forms were not submitted, requested that City Clerk staff call me and Colin Bowden immediately so that we could have a chance to hand in our SEI’s on time. We received no such call.
These small bureaucratic mistakes are just that, small mistakes, but the consequences are severe and they are a detriment to our democratic process. However much it affects me personally, the real injustice is the silencing of the voices and votes of constituents who now have two less options at the ballot box.
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