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Wednesday, January 28, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 31.0° F  Overcast
The Daily
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Why are fake candidates' names first on Wisconsin recall primary ballots?
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Who is Gladys Huber? She appears at the top of the ballot in the Democratic primary for governor in today's recall election, above Kathleen Vinehout, Doug La Follette, Kathleen Falk and Tom Barrett.

Unlike these four candidates, though, she is a Republican, running as a fake candidate along with five others in the races for lieutenant governor and four state Senate seats.

The order of the candidates' names on the recall ballot has raised a few eyebrows this Election Day. Specifically, while Gov. Scott Walker's line on the ballot appears above his challenger, protester Arthur Kohl-Riggs, the fake candidates sponsored by the Republican Party appear at the top of the candidate lists in the Democratic primaries for both governor and lieutenant governor.

For example, here are comments from one voter.

Jeff Christiansen, the Democratic Party chair for Wisconsin's Fifth Congressional District, makes a similar observation.

Here's a photo of a sample ballot in the city of Oshkosh, shot by national political reporter Dave Weigel of Slate, that illustrates the order.

DJ Nick Nice, an active Capitol protester, raises the same question.

Here's an image of a sample ballot, along with a question to the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB) about the issue.

But it's not just in the races for governor and lieutenant governor where this pattern holds. In three out of the four Democratic primaries for state Senate seats, the Republican-sponsored fake candidate appears in the top line. Gary Ellerman appears above Lori Compas in District 13, Tarma Varebrook appears above John Lehman in District 21, and Jim Buckley appears above Donna Seidel in District 29. Only in District 23 does the actual Democratic candidate appear first, with Kristen Dexter above James Engel.

In all, five of the six Democratic primary races in Wisconsin today feature the fake candidates in the first ballot line. The sole Republican primary, for governor, lists incumbent Scott Walker first.

Every ballot across the state features the same order of candidates in the primaries for governor and lieutenant governor, as do those for the Senate primaries within their respective districts.

How was the order for each race determined?

GAB spokesperson Reid Magney says that the order candidates are listed is determined randomly for each race in advance of the election, as dictated by state statute, namely S. 5.60(1)(b), Wis. Stats. 3/24/2003.

Magney explains further. "We determined it a couple of weeks ago at the time we made our decision about who would be on the ballot to begin with," he says. "The staff draws names. I'm not sure if it's literally a hat, but they put names on pieces of paper and draw them for the order."

The candidate order for today's ballots was provided to county and municipal clerks in an attachment (PDF) to a memo sent on April 11. "Providing the unofficial certification and ballot order will allow you to prepare your ballots and submit them to the G.A.B. for review," notes the memo, which also details the process for ballot certification and absentee voting.

Magney says that the state has followed a procedure to randomize the order of candidates for decades.

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