Ballot Slogan Axed

Jason Stein and Patrick Marley, Journal Sentinel (Milwaukee), July 21, 2010

State elections officials Wednesday narrowly rejected a Milwaukee Assembly candidate’s attempt to run with the slogan “NOT the ‘whiteman’s bitch'” under her name on the ballot.

Ieshuh Griffin, an independent candidate with a history of feuds with local officials, said in response she would sue the state Government Accountability Board for infringing on her freedom of speech.

She is running to replace retiring Rep. Annette “Polly” Williams (D-Milwaukee).

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Unlike candidates from the established Democratic and Republican parties, independents are allowed a five-word statement of purpose on the ballot to explain to voters what their candidacy is about.

Shane Falk, a staff attorney for the Accountability Board, said that the board had the ability to restrict obscene or derogatory candidate statements from the ballot.

The board staff ruled that the statement was derogatory and should not be allowed. With one member absent, the board voted 3-2 in favor of reversing that ruling and allowing the wording. Under state law, however, four votes are needed for the board to act.

As a result, the staff decision stands, and Griffin will be on the ballot with “independent” by her name and nothing else. Falk noted that Griffin was still free to use the phrase in her campaign literature and any ads she might run.

The board, which administers state election laws, consists of six former judges. All of them are white.

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