Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hope Was Here: Our Conversation with the State of Wisconsin


After reading about the November mayoral election in Hope Was Here and possibly learning about Wisconsin’s spring, nonpartisan elections in April, our fourth and fifth graders decided to contact state officials directly.  They wanted to know for sure if all mayoral elections in Wisconsin are held in the spring or if the November election in Hope Was Here could actually occur in Wisconsin.

Our first email was simply a question entered into an online form.  And of course, the students elected me to use my email address as the contact.  (That’s why only my name is included in the emails.)

From: Brian
Subject: Local Election Dates

Are all local elections in the state of Wisconsin held in the spring, or are there cities where a mayoral election would happen in the fall?

Not long after our query, we received the following response.  (The name of the government official has been changed.)

From: Mary, Wisconsin Government Accountability Board
To: Brian
Subject: RE: Local Election Dates

Mr. Wilhorn,

Spring elections are nonpartisan elections.  Elections held in the spring are:

State: State Superintendent of Public Instruction: Judicial (Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Circuit Court)
Multi-Jurisdictional Municipal Judge
County: County (Executive and Supervisor)
City: Mayor, Treasurer, Clerk, Alderperson
Village: President, Trustees, Clerk, Treasurer, Assessor, Constable, Municipal Judge
Town: Chairperson, Supervisors, Clerk, Treasurer, Assessor, Constable, Municipal Judge
School Board Members

The response clearly said that mayoral elections are held in the spring, but just to be sure, we responded with a little more information.  We also added a disclaimer in the P.S. so the state knew were only students doing research and not some local whistleblowers.

From: Brian
To: Mary, Wisconsin Government Accountability Board
Subject: RE: Local Election Dates

Thank you for your response.  So, just to clarify, is it against state law to have a mayoral election in the fall?  Could a city decide to hold a mayoral election in the fall on their own?

Thanks again,
Brian

P.S.  No, I'm not concerned with a local city's actions.  A class at my school is studying government, and in a fictional example set in Wisconsin, the mayoral election - without any extenuating circumstances - happens in the fall.  We wondered if that could be accurate. 

Again, it didn’t take long to get a response, and this one made the answer to our question even more clear.

From: Mary, Wisconsin Government Accountability Board
To: Brian
Subject: RE: Local Election Dates

Mr. Wilhorn,

A regularly-scheduled election for the office of Mayor would never occur in the fall.  However, in the case of a vacancy that occurs before June 1 in the year preceding expiration of the term of office, the common council may order a special election to fill a vacancy to be held in November.  S. 17.23(1)(a), Wis. Stats.

So, a special election for mayor could possibly occur in the fall.

We had our answer.  The election in Hope Was Here occurs in the fall.  Since it is a normally scheduled election and not a special election to fill a vacancy, it technically would be an illegal election. Technically.

Now what?  Did we find a [gulp!] mistake in Newbery Honor winning novel?  Was the election purposely placed in the fall to better fit the plot?  What should we do?

The kids thought the answer was simple:  Ask the author.

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