MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin election officials voted Friday to allow the Donald Trump-endorsed nominee to remain on the Republican primary ballot in the presidential battleground state, fending off a Democratic challenge to his nomination papers.
Wisconsin’s bipartisan Election Commission voted unanimously to allow construction company co-owner Tim Michels to be on the ballot.
Michels entered the race in late April, joining three other candidates vying for the Republican nomination: former lieutenant governor Rebecca Kleefisch, state representative Tim Ramthun and business consultant Kevin Nicholson.
Trump endorsed Michels this month, calling him in an email “America’s premier conservative” who will support gun rights and policing and oppose what Trump called “the woke mob.”
Two days later, the state’s Democratic Party filed a complaint with the Elections Commission alleging that Michels had used the wrong address on his nomination papers. He alleged that the error left Michels with only around 350 valid signatures. Michels needed 2,000 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.
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Michels’ campaign acknowledged that some of the nomination forms list his physical address in the village of Chenequa instead of his official mailing address which is in the nearby town of Hartland. But he said all forms include the mailing address of the campaign’s post office box.
Commissioners said the address was close enough that Michels did not deserve to be kicked off the ballot because of the issue.
“There is no doubt in my mind (the Michels campaign is) in substantial compliance,” said Democratic Commissioner Mark Thomsen.
Michels called for the elimination of the electoral commission. The six-person panel drew heavy criticism from Republicans for decisions made by commissioners ahead of the 2020 presidential election, including expanded use of mail-in ballot boxes and banning special voting deputies help residents of nursing homes fill out their ballots. The commission made the decision after nursing homes across the state refused to allow visitors due to the COVID-19 pandemic and before vaccines were available.
Thomsen received a jab just before the vote, saying he hopes the experience with his nomination papers will help Michels realize how complicated Wisconsin election law is and how interpretations of it can differ. He said Michels was always “shouting” to follow the letter of the law, but had the commission followed that philosophy, it could have thrown him out of the ballot.
The winner of the Aug. 9 primary will advance to face Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in the Nov. 8 general election.
The committee’s decision comes after Michigan’s Supreme Court ruled this month that three Republican gubernatorial candidates — Perry Johnson, Michael Markey and Donna Brandenburg — couldn’t be on that state’s primary ballot.
All three were convicted by fraudulent signatures on their declarations of candidacy.
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