Organizing, Challenging Recall Signatures a Daunting Task; Less than One Week to Go

MacIver News Service | February 21, 2012

[Madison, Wisc…] Last Friday, Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess denied a request by the Walker campaign for more time to review recall petitions. Niess had earlier granted Walker a twenty-day extension beyond the 10-day minimum review period spelled out in state law. The Walker campaign had requested an additional two weeks, saying the sheer volume of data makes verification a cumbersome effort.

By denying that request, the deadline of February 27 still stands for the Walker campaign to file any signature challenges.

Although independent media and the Walker campaign have found a 10 to 20 percent error rate with the petitions, Judge Niess was not swayed. He noted the error rate, would have to exceed 45 percent to prevent a recall election from being triggered, assuming a million signatures actually were submitted.

More than 13,000 volunteers have signed up with the Verify the Recall project to help enter the recall petition data into a searchable database.

“The response from Wisconsin and across the nation has been phenomenal,” said Catherine Engelbrecht of True the Vote, the national organization that is working with two Wisconsin-based Tea Party organizations on the ‘Verify’ effort.

Note however, that neither the GAB nor the independent Verify the Recall organizers have been able to confirm or deny that recall organizers hit that million-signature milestone. Media outlets have repeated the claim although there is no conclusive evidence to verify the figure.

In fact, officials with the Walker Campaign, the Republican Party of Wisconsin and the independent Verify the Recall effort have been slow to make public any interim findings during their review of the data.

However, a cursory look at a few dozen of the more than 150,000 documents posted on the GAB’s website reveals a wide array of questionable entries and illustrate the difficulty facing those reviewing the petitions.

So, what are the individuals who are reviewing the petitions looking for? Here are just a few example of the types of issues that could spark challenges.

  • Page 43 the date of circulation has been altered changed
  • Page 77 the circulator indicates the paper was done being circulated BEFORE two electors signed
  • Page 94 shows similar problem as page 94
  • Page 183 no municipalities are listed, but checked; moreover all the dates appear to be written by one person (look at the 2’s.)

    Did one person 'date' all these entries?

  • Page 184A appears to have the same date writer again, #4-no municipality listed.; #5 no date
  • Page 187B…#5–circulator’s address written, then crossed out
  • Page 551 is actually a page seeking the recall of Lieutenant Governor Rebecca  Kleefisch
  • Page 612 is actually a page seeking the recall of Lieutenant Governor Rebecca  Kleefisch
  • Page 133844 was also originally a Recall Rebecca Kleefisch petition but her name was crossed off and Scott Walker’s was added. Was it before or after the petitioners signed?
  • Page12960 there are several problems that could trigger a challenge; Circulator signature crossed off and signed by another name; Five-signature page has two names in space #5 without addresses.
  • Page 994 someone from Ithaca, NY signed on line #9


  • Page 7886 there is no date on line #2  Page 17551 or 47551 line #4 has a date of 11/1/11, a date which is before the recall period began.
  • Page 24832 the circulator enters municipality and initials and the dates appear to be written by the same person throughout but not initialed. Also look at #10 address and municipality were filled and initialed by circulator.
  • Page 133595 the circulator changed the date.
  • Page 62748 many of the dates are scribbled and unreadable.

This is not to assert that these signatures, if contested before the GAB, would be disqualified. Nor are these examples proof of widespread fraud. Rather, they serve as a glimpse into the vast scope of the daunting task before the Walker campaign and Republican officials.

The GAB is on record saying they do not verify the signatures or check them for accuracy, rather they review them to determine that on their face they are sufficient (i.e., completely filled out.) It is up to the campaign operation of Governor Walker to contest the validity of any signature.

The MNS has received hundreds of similar examples submitted by individuals who waded through the scanned petition pages on the GAB website.

Observers note combing through the scanned copies of the petitions, while fruitful, is a time consuming process.

Despite not being prohibited from doing so, Wisconsin election officials have chosen not to enter the names and addresses of signatories into an easily searchable database. However, the Verify the Recall project leaders tell us they are ‘in the homestretch’ of doing just that.

Earlier, the GAB ruled that only the parties facing a recall have standing to challenge signatures.

GAB Director and General Counsel Kevin Kennedy said there is no process in place for accepting information from outside groups and individuals. Governor Scott Walker and the four Republican state senators against whom recall petitions were filed last month are the only parties that can contest the validity of signatures, according to Kennedy.

The GAB will not investigate or consider independently-submitted evidence of recall petition fraud. This includes circumstances wherein individuals might notify the board that their own name and forged signature were submitted.

According to the GAB, anyone concerned that their signature was fraudulently included on a recall petition, therefore, must notify not the GAB, but rather the target of the recall. In addition, they must do so by the challenge deadline if they want that signature reviewed  and ultimately, possibly, struck.

“Staff believes the Board should only rely on information that is developed by the staff in its petition review, submitted by the officeholders in a challenge or the petitioners in response to determine the sufficiency of recall petitions,” wrote GAB Executive Director and General Counsel Kevin Kennedy in a memo to GAB members earlier this month.

Officials with Verify the Recall have said they would challenge that ruling in court.

“The whole concept of recall is for citizens to hold their government accountable, and that’s what we’re doing too,” Ross Brown, Verify the Recall organizer, told the MacIver News Service earlier this month. “The truth is the truth. It doesn’t matter where it comes from.”

Brown feels confident his group will be able to force the GAB to accept the evidence it’s found.

“We’ve done our homework prior to getting to this point,” Brown said. “We are moving full steam ahead.”

However, barring any successful legal challenges to the GAB or Judge Niess’ rulings, a timetable for the recall election of Governor Scott Walker could be set when the GAB meets in March.