GAB Grants Walker Foe’s Request to Make Recalls Easier, More Likely

UPDATE >> Board Spokesman Says Ruling “really no change from what was done in the past.”

Board’s Action Done without Legislative Direction

MacIver News Service | September 12, 2011 | Updated 6:45pm

[Madison, Wisc…] A political opponent of Scott Walker succeeded Monday in convincing the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board to make it easier to hold recall elections in the state, although the Board spokesperson denies the move represents a change from current procedure…

The Board voted 5-1 in favor of a request of Patrick Williams of to allow single-signature petitions forms to be submitted and accumulated as a part of an effort to force recall elections.

The single-signature form is the first step in facilitating the collection of recall signatures online, rather than in person. However, while the GAB has approved the one-signature petition collection, the Board did not take a position on Mr. Williams’ specific proposed online process for petition circulation.

They did not, however, rule against Mr. Williams’ or any possible online signature collection processes; leaving the door open to the possibility that lawmakers could be recalled via online petitions.

“I can’t believe you are considering this,” warned Ardis Cerny. “Do you realize the Pandora’s Box you are opening up? The unintended consequences here are enormous.”

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Cerny and others present at the GAB meeting in Madison Monday are worried that the GAB is creating a process that will facilitate a perpetual election cycle in the state.

Mary Ann Hanson expressed concern that the new procedure could “lead to one database enabling mass recall efforts that could consume our democratic process.”

Williams runs an anti-Scott Walker Website, which promotes the recall of the Governor.

The GAB noted that online petitions pose the potential for “electronic mischief.”

“[O]ne or more persons could log in and submit thousands of names and addresses that could be used to generate the forms,” staff warned in a memo for the Board.

The ruling by the Government Accountability Board allowing for single-signature petition forms is “really no change from what was done in the past,” according to Reid Magney, GAB spokesman.

Single-signature petition forms allow people to go online, download a recall form, fill it out, and then mail it in. Magney told the MacIver News Service that this was always allowed for in the past. In fact, the GAB accepted single-signature petition forms during the recall elections this past summer.

Why then, skeptics wonder, did the GAB feel the need to vote on the measure Monday?

“We’re looking at another big recall election coming up and we wanted to get the board on the record [about the rule],” Magney said.

Critics of the ruling fear it will lead to petitions being signed online and submitted electronically. Magney said that isn’t possible, yet.

“The statutes don’t allow for online petitions,” he said. “We don’t have the authority to do that.”

Patrick Williams’ pro-recallĀ website is filled with partisan rhetoric and links to Democratic and labor union organizations.

“We will work tirelessly to recall certain Legislators and the Governor,” the website proclaims.

By law, state agencies are granted rule-making power to actualize the legislature’s public policy decisions.

According to Wis Stats. 227.11(2)(a) Each agency may promulgate rules interpreting the provisions of any statute enforced or administered by the agency, if the agency considers it necessary to effectuate the purpose of the statute, but a rule is not valid if the rule exceeds the bounds of correct interpretation.

The GAB’s actions on Monday were not the result of a new law passed by the legislature; rather, the GAB acted upon the recommendation of GAB staff at the request of Mr. Williams.

The GAB recessed their public meeting and met in closed session immediately thereafter.

“We seek over the next year to remove members of the Legislature and the Governor, because they are harming the present and future lives of the people of Wisconsin from an economic, educational and health care standpoint,” Williams notes on his website.

Thanks to action by the GAB on Monday, Cenry warned, Williams’ goal will be easier to achieve.

“We will have recalls 24/7, 365 days a year,” Cerny said.

“We’re not leaving the door open for anything,” Magney said, denying accusations that the GAB is paving the way for the acceptance of online signatures on recall, nomination and other election-related papers.