Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

New Election Commission Appointed

Three new commissioners likely first task: ruling on challenges to mayoral signatures.

By - Jan 5th, 2022 04:22 pm
Milwaukee City Hall. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee City Hall. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The Milwaukee Election Commission finds itself with a completely new board just before it will be tasked with ruling on ballot eligibility issues for the first open mayoral race since 2004.

The three-member board is now chaired by Terrell MartinPatricia Ruiz-Cantu and Douglas Haag round out the board. They replaced Stephanie Findley, Carmen Cabrera and Jess Ripp.

Its most high-profile job is to decide ballot access issues and it could be pressed to do so soon. Candidates for mayor must submit at least 1,500 valid signatures by Jan. 11 to be placed on the ballot Feb. 15. The board will hear and rule on challenges.

In 2020 the commission, at the advice of the City Attorney’s Office, voted to deny David King access to the ballot after he failed to submit enough valid signatures. King called the issue “a setup” intended to keep a conservative off the ballot.

As required by state statute, the members were selected from lists provided by the county political parties. Martin and Ruiz-Cantu are Democrats, a result of Governor Tony Evers winning the last gubernatorial race on the city level. Haag is a Republican.

Martin is a deputy superintendent of the Milwaukee County Juvenile Detention Center and lives in the city’s Sunset Heights neighborhood. He told the Judiciary & Legislation Committee in October that he would like to see off-cycle election voter turnout be raised to presidential elections levels. “I would like to help to raise that to give more awareness of the citizens of Milwaukee how important it is to vote,” he said.

Ruiz-Cantu resides in the Washington Park neighborhood. She works as the community outreach manager for the city’s Department of Administration. Also notable: “I’m an immigrant and I was a DREAMer at one point,” said Ruiz-Cantu. “President Obama is the first citizen I was able to vote for.” She said she’s served as a poll worker in the past and registered people to vote.

Haag is an employment and training specialist for the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development and lives on the city’s far South Side. He previously worked for the city as a part-time election supervisor and said he looks forward to doing so again in the future.

All three were unanimously confirmed by the council in 2021, the two Democrats in November and Haag in December.

Findley, the prior chair, had served on the commission for more than a decade.

The members, required to be city residents, serve a four-year term. Their only direct compensation comes as a reimbursement payment made annually for attending meetings.

The day-to-day management of the commission falls to executive director Claire Woodall-Vogg and her small full-time staff. That staff swells to more than 1,000 when an election must be administered. Part-timers, many of whom are city employees, are paid a flat rate to work for the day.

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Categories: City Hall, Politics, Weekly

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