Candidate removed from ballot for oversight
Flood raised the issue with the County Clerk’s Office Tuesday afternoon, setting off an investigation that concluded Thursday with the removal of Heisler’s name from the ballot.
County Clerk Brian Van Bergen said he conferred with the County Counsel’s Office, then the Secretary of State’s Office, before determining the three-term mayor did not qualify for the ballot. He said state election law requires candidate filings include a dated signature, and Heisler’s lacked that.
He termed Flood’s complaint “timely,” as the voter’s pamphlet is scheduled to go to press today and the ballot will soon follow.
“It’s much better for this to come up now than a week after the election,” he said. “If he got the most votes, and then this came up, the entire election could have been called into question. Then we would’ve had to start over again.”
Heisler, who makes his living as a marketing manager for Autotrader.com, filed just three hours before the March 11 deadline for the seat being vacated by commissioner Kathy George. He was attempting to join a field of five, all of whom have fully met their qualifications.
“This does not disqualify Mr. Heisler from being elected,” Van Bergen said. He said Heisler could still mount a write-in campaign if he wished.
Heisler said he was very disappointed and frustrated to “have such a harsh consequence for a simple oversight.” But he said he does not plan to pursue a write-in effort.
Heisler admitted he could’ve filed his paperwork sooner. But he considered clerk’s office workers to be experts, and when they accepted his paperwork and check, he considered that a seal of approval, he said.
“To me, that meant what I submitted was acceptable,” he said. “There’s no question of intent here.
“It’s frustrating to me that a clerical error is used to disqualify a candidate. That’s not acceptable to the voting public and it’s not using common sense. Ironically, that’s part of why I wanted to run, to bring more common sense to government.”
Van Bergen said the onus to submit accurate information is ultimately on the candidate, though his office does try to serve as a backstop.
“It’s not our responsibility to ensure your accuracy, but from a customer service and election office perspective, we do our best to assist whenever possible,” he said.
“We have the responsibility to accept documents. We do not have a responsibility to ensure their accuracy at the time we accept them. However, when people give us enough time, our office does vigorously try to help people.”
Heisler filed within hours of the deadline, amidst a flurry of other filings and multiple submissions for voter pamphlet statements, Van Bergen noted. He said that didn’t help.
The omission of a signature was a critical error, the clerk said.
“The signature is a binding piece of information,” he said. “We can work around dotted i’s or crossed t’s, but we cannot work around the signature, which is what makes it a legally binding contract between a candidate and the voters.”
Flood also took issue with Heisler’s failure to enter payment of the $50 filing fee into ORESTAR, the state’s database for campaign finance transactions. Under state law, that is required within three days of filing.
But Van Bergen said campaign finance enforcement did not fall under local purview.