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Editorial: Phony party candidates dilute election process

Last July Isaac Weix, an apparent Republican, entered the election recall race of state Sen. Sheila Harsdorf as a Democrat to force a primary election for Harsdorf's Democrat opponent Shelly Moore.

Weix's motivation was that a primary would give Harsdorf more time to campaign for the general recall election.

This year recall fever revs up again. More state lawmakers, including Gov. Scott Walker, are facing recall elections. Statewide, six Republicans are running as fake Democrats to force primaries.

Walker, too, has a "fake" opponent: Arthur Kohl-Riggs, whose motto is "Less of a joke than Scott Walker," has collected enough signatures to force a Republican primary. Kohl-Riggs has never been associated with the Republican Party.

Many Wisconsin residents are already leery of the recall process and believe it's being overused. We agree and think the bar should be raised.

One way would be to at least double the number of signatures to force a recall election. That would make the recall petition drive harder to achieve and, if successful, show a much larger percentage of the electorate favoring political change.

Aside from recall mania, fake party candidates turn our voting system into a joke. Primaries are meant to thin the field of each given party before the general election.

For example, four longstanding Democrats are running to challenge the Republican Walker in the governor's recall election: Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett; former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk; Secretary of State Doug La Follette and state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (who represents a portion of the River Falls area).

One of these four will presumably emerge the winner on the Democratic side. We say presumably because Republican Gladys Huber is also adding mischief to the contest by running as a fifth Democrat.

If these primaries are to have meaning, the party names "Republican" and "Democrat" have to mean what they say. Otherwise, if anybody jumps aboard on a personal whim, the party labels are meaningless.

We do, however, see the point in forcing a primary as a delaying tactic.

Under current law, a recall election shall be held on the Tuesday of the sixth week after the filing officer finds that the petition is sufficient.

That probably doesn't give an incumbent, whom we hope is tending to business, time to run an effective campaign. We'd rather see our elected officials working for legislative solutions rather than devote more time to convincing us to vote for them because the other party is leading us down the road to ruin.

Forcing a primary gives the incumbent another four weeks to organize and run a campaign. So we'd suggest lengthening the time between certification of the recall effort and the election itself -- to perhaps eight weeks -- up front.

On one hand that would appear to simply extend an agonizing process. On the other, a recall challenger has already had weeks of opportunity to campaign while collecting petition signatures before the incumbent starts campaigning.

The integrity of Wisconsin election system is at stake. Unlike recent legislation requiring voters to have a photo I.D., frequent recalls and phony party candidates are real problems. Fixing them is important.

We urge lawmakers from both parties, along with many of us who are independent, to get in on the fix.

Online Poll: No one way to prepare

The Journal's online poll question this week asked: Should the school district be conducting 'shooter' drills at schools? Early results show:

--Yes, all schools, because even very young students need to be prepared & No, students should never be part of this traumatic drill (tied), 35.7%

--Yes, but only at the middle and high schools, 28.6%

--Yes, but only at the high school, 0%

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to add your vote.