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Common Nomination Paper Challenges Manual

Posted in
January 4, 2018
Information for candidates and election officials about challenges to nomination papers.
Common Nomination Paper Challenges Manual (1_2018).pdf275.38 KB


Parties wishing to challenge nomination papers of state and federal candidates file such challenges with the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC). Parties wishing to appeal a decision of a local election official regarding nomination papers or challenges related to local candidates may also file a complaint with the WEC. In either case, parties are reminded that the Board may, if it finds, by a preponderance of the evidence, that a challenge or complaint is frivolous, order the complainant to forfeit up to the greater of $500 or the expenses incurred by the WEC. in investigating the complaint.

The requirements and standards related to nomination papers and challenges to nomination papers are governed generally by Ch. 8, Wis. Stats, and EL Ch. 2, Wis. Admn. Code. Pursuant to Wis. Admn. Code EL §2.05(5), “where a required item of information on a nomination paper is incomplete, the filing officer shall accept the information as complete if there has been substantial compliance with the law.” Furthermore, any information on a nomination paper is entitled to a presumption of validity. Wis. Admn. Code EL § 2.05(4). Both challenges and responses must be verified (notarized) and may include supporting documentation. The burden is on the challenger to establish, by clear and convincing evidence, any insufficiency of the nomination papers and if the challenger does so, the burden then shifts to the challenged candidate to establish that the nomination papers or any challenged signatures are sufficient. Wis. Admn. Code EL §§ 2.07(2) and (3).

Over the years, WEC staff and its governing body have analyzed numerous types of challenges and developed a consistent methodology for resolving the most common challenges that have been filed. This document should hopefully help candidates and political parties concentrate their efforts on challenges with a supportable legal basis, and reduce the filing of frivolous challenges or those involving legal issues which have been well settled.

While challenges are not limited to those described in the administrative rules, there are two general categories of challenges – challenges to the header of the nomination papers which may result in declaring all signatures contained on nomination papers using that header to be invalid, and challenges to individual signatures which do not affect the validity of other signatures on the nomination papers.

Please Note: This document summarizes previous decisions of the State Elections Board, the Government Accountability Board and the Wisconsin Elections Commission related to the most common challenges to nomination papers and other election petitions. It is intended to itemize and consolidate previous decisions which state and local filing officers may rely on as precedents regarding the general legal questions and principles involved. However, the facts of individual circumstances and challenges vary, and the application of these principles will be determined on a case by case basis.

This Manual will be revised periodically to incorporate additional common issues which arise and are addressed by the WEC.