John Nygren
John Nygren
MILWAUKEE - A Republican state lawmaker filed a lawsuit Tuesday demanding that his name be placed on the ballot in an upcoming recall election against a Democratic state senator.

Rep. John Nygren of Marinette accused state elections officials of acting in haste Monday when they ruled him ineligible to run against Sen. Dave Hansen, of Green Bay. Nygren argued that he wasn't given a fair chance to defend his eligibility.

Nygren was one of six Republicans who filed paperwork to run in recall elections targeting three Democratic senators. All six candidates had to submit paperwork, including 400 signatures from voters in the relevant district, last week. Any challenges to the submissions had to be filed by Friday with the state Government Accountability Board.

Late Friday afternoon, the accountability board said Nygren was one of four Republicans whose paperwork had been challenged. The challenges, most of which alleged that signatures came from voters who didn't live in the proper districts, sought to have the questionable signatures tossed.

Nygren and the three other challengers had until Monday at 8 a.m. to address the challenges. A few hours after the deadline the board said the other three challengers would be listed on their respective ballots. However, it said several dozen of the 424 signatures that Nygren submitted had been disqualified, leaving him two short of the required minimum.

In his lawsuit, Nygren argued that he wasn't given enough time to address the challenges. He said it was unrealistic to expect that he meet a deadline of early Monday when he was only informed of the challenges late Friday.

If he'd been given more time, he said, he could have explained why some of the disputed signatures were indeed valid.
Nygren's lawyer listed a few of those explanations in a letter to the board. In one case, the letter said, a Green Bay man who lives in the proper Senate district had his signature improperly tossed because he listed his work address that fell outside the district.

The voter "should not be disenfranchised simply because he listed his business address on the nomination paper," the lawsuit said.

Board spokesman Reid Magney declined to comment on the substance of the lawsuit. He said election officials would proceed as planned unless a judge ordered them stop.

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin said Nygren was trying to deflect criticism onto the accountability board when instead he should accept the blame for his own "blunder."

"Rep. Nygren's meek attempt to blame the process and the rules that everyone must follow for his failure to collect 400 valid nomination signatures is embarrassing and just plain pitiful," party chairman Mike Tate said in a statement.

Nine state senators are being targeted for recall, following Republican Gov. Scott Walker's efforts earlier this year to strip collective-bargaining rights from most state employees. The efforts target six Republicans who supported the measure and three Democrats who fled the state to stall it.

The board approved the nomination paperwork of Hansen's other challenger, David VanderLeest of Green Bay. If Nygren's efforts to get on the ballot are successful, he'll face VanderLeest in a Republican primary July 19 with the winner taking on Hansen on Aug. 16. If VanderLeest is the only Republican on the ballot, the July 19 election will be the general election against Hansen.

On the other side, the six incumbent Republican senators will face general elections on Aug. 9, following Democratic primaries set for July 12.