Pandemic creates challenges for local political candidates to collect signatures

The COVID-19 pandemic is keeping local political candidates from going door-to-door to collect signatures to get on the November ballot.

The contenders to fill the 44th District Assembly seat being vacated by Democrat Deb Kolste have had to get creative to gather the 200-400 names required by the June 1 deadline.

Republican DuWayne Severson said he relied on family, friends and co-workers to spread the word, often collecting signatures one or two at a time.

Democrat Sue Conley felt the process was much more disconnected, with fewer opportunities to meet with voters face-to-face. She credited her campaign team for their work on social media.

Libertarian Reese Wood believes the pandemic created an extra disadvantage for independent and third-party candidates compared to the establishment parties, with less opportunity to grow a grass-roots campaign.

He set up a table at the Janesville Farmer’s Market and held a drive-through signature collecting event to try and drum up interest in his campaign.

Democrat Spencer Zimmerman had also registered his campaign for the race with the Wisconsin Elections Commission, but he said he did not attempt to collect the full number of signatures because of the pandemic-related challenges.

Severson and Conley said they submitted their nomination papers to the commission, while Wood is still working to collect signatures before Monday’s deadline.

The Libertarian candidate wishes the governor or the state legislature would have reduced the number of signatures required or extended the amount of time for candidates to collect signatures due to these extraordinary circumstances, as other states have done.