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GOP lawmaker upset with signature interpretation

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Associated Press | June 5, 2014

MADISON — The state Government Accountability Board is applying a new law requiring printed signatures on candidate nomination papers too strictly, the chairwoman of the state Assembly's elections committee says.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed a GOP-authored law in March that requires anyone who signs nomination papers to print his or her name legibly next to the signature. The GOP drew up the law after Walker supporters complained many signatures on recall petitions against him in 2012 were illegible.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported Tuesday that candidates vying to get on this fall's ballot are complaining the GAB is rejecting an unusual number of signatures because they weren't printed. The paper reviewed 90 names the GAB struck from one candidate's papers and found several legible examples.

Rep. Kathleen Bernier, a Chippewa Falls Republican who chairs the Assembly Campaign and Elections Committee, said the GAB is going too far and plans to ask the board at its June 10 meeting to stop staff from determining what is and isn't printed and to instead determine what is readable.

GAB spokesman Reid Magney says the board believes the law means names must be printed as well as legible.

"Our interpretation is that to qualify, a name must be both printed and legible," Magney said. "Cursive handwriting, no matter how legible, is not printed."

No candidates fell below the minimum number of signatures because of legibility issues, said GAB attorney Mike Haas.

Craig Krueger, who is running as an independent for the Assembly, filed 237 nomination signatures on Monday using old forms that have a space for signers to print their names. A GAB official told him all his signatures were invalid and he's off the ballot, he said. Krueger said he printed out old nomination forms without space for a printed name from the GAB website in March, a month before the agency issued new forms based on the law.

Barry Nelson, a Manitowoc Republican running for the state Senate, turned in 470 signatures but the GAB said he had only 369 valid names, leaving him 31 signatures short of getting on the ballot. Nelson said a GAB staff member told him many of the names were stricken because of an illegibly printed name.

"If you can make out the name," Nelson said, "who cares if it's squiggly?"

Nelson could rehabilitate 24 of those signatures because of the printing issue, still leaving him seven short of getting on the ballot, Magney said.



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