Friday, June 1, 2018 at 5 p.m. is the deadline for candidates to file nomination papers to get on the ballot for the August 14 Partisan Primary and the November 6 General Election. As always, members of the news media are welcome to cover this deadline by staking out the Wisconsin Elections Commission office in Madison, but all the information needed will be available on the agency’s website.
This advisory contains information about how to find out who is running state, federal and local elections, where to find the documents, what they mean, and when the ballot will be finalized.
The Necessary Paperwork
To get on the ballot, candidates for state office must file four documents with two different state agencies:
- Campaign finance registration statement (ETHCF-1) with the Wisconsin Ethics Commission,
- Declaration of Candidacy form (EL-162) with the Wisconsin Elections Commission,
- Nomination Paper for Partisan Office (EL-168) with the Wisconsin Elections Commission, and
- Statement of Economic Interests (SEI) with the Ethics Commission (due by 4:30 p.m. Monday, June 4).
For more information about steps candidates must take to get on the ballot, the Elections Commission publishes a checklist for state candidates, which can also be helpful for journalists: http://elections.wi.gov/Forms/ELIS-9.
To find out who has filed paperwork to get on the ballot for the fall election, visit the Elections Commission website: http://elections.wi.gov/elections-voting/2018/fall. There are several attachments at the bottom of the page:
The most helpful document for most journalists will be the Candidate Tracking By Office, which also has the date and time it was updated in its title. The document is arranged in several columns, and looks like this:
To get his or her name on this list of candidates, a state candidate must have filed a ETHCF-1 Campaign Finance Registration Statement with the Ethics Commission, which can be viewed at http://cfis.wi.gov by clicking on “View Registrants” and searching for the candidate by name, committee ID or office. Not everyone who files a ETHCF-1 follows through with filing nomination papers to get on the ballot. If there is a date in a column, it means the candidate filed that paperwork (Declaration of Candidacy, SEI, Nomination Papers) on that date. If there is no date, that paperwork has not yet been filed.
On the right side of the page, the column “Valid Signatures” has the number of valid signatures determined by the Elections Commission staff’s review. If a candidate has filed petitions and the number is a zero, it means staff is still reviewing the petitions. If the “Ballot Status” column says Pending, staff is still reviewing the petitions or is waiting for other paperwork such as the SEI. If it says Approved, staff is recommending approval to the Elections Commission, which will make a final decision at its meeting on June 11 at the State Capitol. (More about that meeting below.)
For more detailed information about a candidate’s nomination papers, the Nomination Paper Tracking document can be helpful. It is arranged in order of when the nomination papers were filed. There will also be a Supplemental Nomination Paper Tracking document which tracks supplemental nomination papers filed after the initial filing. Candidates will sometimes file more signatures if their first filing is close to the minimum number of signatures required. Staff does not review supplemental nomination papers unless there are problems with the candidate’s original petitions.
Candidates for state and federal office – Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, State Treasurer, U.S. Senator, Representative in Congress (all districts), State Senator (odd-numbered districts), and Representatives to the Assembly (all districts) – file with the Elections Commission.
Candidates for U.S. Senate and Representative in Congress have different filing requirements. Federal candidates must register their campaigns with the Federal Elections Commission (www.fec.gov), not the Wisconsin Ethics Commission. That is why some well-known candidates may not appear on the Wisconsin Elections Commission’s list until very late in the process. Some federal candidates do not file a Declaration of Candidacy form with the Elections Commission until they submit their nomination papers several days before the filing deadline. Federal candidates are also not required to file a Wisconsin Statement of Economic Interests form.
Candidates for county races such as sheriff, clerk of circuit court and coroner file paperwork with the county clerk or the Milwaukee County Election Commission. You can find a directory of county clerks here: http://elections.wi.gov/clerks/directory
When a candidate doesn’t live in the district he or she is running in, we often get questions about when the candidate has to move into the district. Here are the rules:
- Candidates for State Senator and Representative to the Assembly do not need to be residents of the districts they seek to represent when they are candidates. If a candidate is elected who does not live in the district, he or she must become a qualified elector of the district at least 10 days before taking the oath of office in early January of 2019.
- Candidates for Representative in Congress must be an inhabitant of Wisconsin at the time of the election, but do not need to live in the district they seek to represent, even if they are elected.
- County candidates must be qualified electors of the county at least 10 days before filing nomination papers.
For more information on candidate qualifications, we have a handy guide:
How Many Signatures?
Candidates for Governor and other statewide offices including U.S. Senator must file at least 2,000 valid signatures. Candidates for Representative in Congress must file 1,000 signatures. The minimum for State Senate is 400 and for State Assembly is 200.
There are also maximum numbers of signatures a candidate may file: Governor and other statewide offices, 4,000; Representative in Congress, 2,000; State Senate, 800; and State Assembly, 400. What this means is that if there are problems within the first 2,000 signatures submitted for Governor, the additional signatures above the minimum act as a safety cushion up to the maximum of 4,000. The reason for the limits (especially in small districts) is to prevent one candidate from gathering signatures from most of the eligible voters, depriving his opponent of the opportunity to collect enough signatures to get on the ballot. An individual can sign only one candidate’s petition for an office.
- The deadline for filings is 5 p.m. Friday, June 1.
- Paperwork required to be filed by the June 1 deadline are the Declaration of Candidacy and Nomination Paper for Partisan Office. This paperwork must be filed in person – faxes and emails are not acceptable.
- The Statement of Economic Interests must be filed by 4:30 p.m. on Monday, June 4. The SEI may be filed electronically with the Ethics Commission.
After the 5 p.m. Friday deadline, Elections Commission staff will be working late reviewing nomination papers and periodically updating the reports on the website.
Access to Candidates’ Paperwork
- Because of the volume of paperwork being filed and the tight deadlines, it is not practical to post copies of the candidates’ documents on the website.
- Copies of the ETHCF-1 are available on the Ethics Commission’s Campaign Finance Information System website at http://cfis.wi.gov.
- Candidates’ Statements of Economic Interests are only available by filling out a request form on the Ethics Commission’s SEI website: https://sei.wi.gov.
- Members of the public and the media may inspect and copy candidates’ nomination papers at the Elections Commission office in Madison. Photocopies are 15 cents per page and electronic scans are 7 cents per page.
For the August 14 Partisan Primary, the order in which candidates’ names appear on the ballot is determined on June 6 when the WEC staff draws names of candidates by lot for placement on the Partisan Primary ballot. For the November 6 General Election, the names of Republican candidates will appear first, as required by statute, because the Republican candidate for President received the most votes at the November 2016 General Election. The order of the remaining party candidates will be Democratic, Libertarian, Wisconsin Green and Constitution. Names of independent candidates do not appear on the August 14 Partisan Primary ballot. They will appear on the November 6 General Election after party candidates.
Candidate Certification and Challenges
The Elections Commission’s staff reviews all the nomination papers and makes an initial determination of whether the petition is sufficient – it contains enough valid signatures and meets other requirements. For information on the standards the staff uses, there is a publication about common nomination paper challenges on the Elections Commission website: http://elections.wi.gov/publications/manuals/common-nomination-paper-challenges
In addition, any member of the public may challenge the sufficiency of a candidate’s nomination papers by filing a verified complaint with the Elections Commission by 4:30 p.m. on Monday, June 4. Candidates whose nomination papers are challenged may file responses within three days of the filing of the challenge. For more information about the challenge process, here is a link to the WEC’s administrative rule on challenges: https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/code/admin_code/el/2.
Staff will review any challenges and responses and will make recommendations to the Commission for its meeting on June 11. At that meeting, the Commission will certify the list of candidates for the August 14 Partisan Primary.
Copies of any challenges will be posted on the agency website page for the June 11 Commission meeting: http://elections.wi.gov/about/meetings/2018/june. When they become available, staff reports and recommendations on challenges will be posted online. Because of the tight timeline to evaluate submissions and prepare reports, staff recommendations regarding challenges will likely not be available until the Commission meeting.
The Commission’s June 11 meeting will be held at 10 a.m. in Room 412 East of the State Capitol in Madison, and will be carried live on Wisconsin Eye (www.wiseye.org). A candidate who disagrees with the Commission’s decision can appeal to circuit court for relief.
Candidate Contact Information
The Candidates Tracking By Office document contains only the candidate’s name and street address. More detailed contact information, including telephone numbers and email addresses for the candidate and campaign committee, is contained in the ETHCF-1 Campaign Finance Registration Statement, which is available at http://cfis.wi.gov. Click on “View Registrants” on the left-hand navigation menu and search for the candidate by name, committee ID or office.
After the Elections Commission has certified the final list of candidates on the ballot on June 11, we will post a spreadsheet on the agency website containing expanded contact information for all the candidates.
Candidates running for office in the fall election are required to periodically file reports of contributions and expenditures with the Wisconsin Ethics Commission. For more information about the filing schedule, visit https://ethics.wi.gov/Pages/CampaignFinance/ReportPeriods.aspx.