MacIver News Service | February 8, 2012[Madison, Wisc…] Citizen volunteers are entering signatures from recall petitions into a massive, searchable database at the rate of 2.7 every second–hoping to uncover any evidence of fraud. However, all that work could go to waste if the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board gets its way.
On Wednesday, GAB staff told the Board it was decided internally that it will not accept any evidence of fraud from individuals or third-party groups. Only the official election campaigns of those officials being recalled may participate in reviewing the hundreds of thousands of signatures on the petitions.
Yet, groups like Verify the Recall, which has over 13,000 volunteers working to verify the signatures, are not allowed to coordinate their activities with political campaigns, since it could violate their non-profit tax status.
Verify the Recall, however, is not throwing in the towel. The independent effort, a project of two Wisconsin Tea Party groups, is working on a court challenge to the GAB’s decision, demanding that citizens be allowed to participate in the review process.
“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 on Wednesday. “The truth is the truth. It doesn’t matter where it comes from.”
In addition to Governor Walker, the Lt. Governor and four Republican Senators are also being recalled. The total cost of these elections could exceed $18 million. So far Verify the Recall has reviewed all the senator recall petitions, and believes it has found enough evidence to prevent at least one of the elections.
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.”
Based on public reports, citizens not affiliated with either the recall organization or those targeted for recall this spring have found scores of problems with the petitions, but Wiscosnin’s elections watchdogs have ruled they will not consider any of their evidence.
The Verify the Recall project had three goals:
• To conduct a comprehensive review of recall petition data
• To uphold the integrity of election processes
• To publicly present all findings
On Tuesday, the Government Accountability Board ruled that the only evidence of fraud they will consider must be contained in the challenges offered by Governor Scott Walker or the four Republican state senators against whom recall petitions were filed last month. The GAB will not investigate or consider independently submitted evidence of fraud.
“Staff believes the Board should only rely on information that is developed by the staff in its petition reveiw, submitted by the officeholders in a challenge or the petitioners in response to determine the sufficiencey of recall petitions,” wrote GAB Executive Director and General Counsel Kevin Kennedy in a memo to GAB members Tuesday.
The GAB discussion on the petition review criteria and process focused on their minimum statutory requirements.
The organizers of Verify the Recall say they are prepared to go to court to see to it that the GAB does more.