A Searchable Recall Signature Database Coming Soon as Recall Timing Picture Remains Cloudy

MacIver News Service | March 2, 2012

[Madison, Wisc…] The process of reviewing and validating the petition signatures in the attempted recall of Governor Scott Walker has become quite a mess.

The Government Accountability Board, which is merely reviewing the petitions for sufficiency, duplicates and obviously fake names, is in the process of seeking more time and more money to complete their review.

“At this time, staff does not know how much additional time we will be asking the Board to seek an extension for,” GAB spokesman Reid Magney told the MacIver News Service. “The Board will be discussing the issue of an extension at its meeting March 12, when we should have more information about how much more time may be necessary.”

The Walker campaign has been denied another extension of their review period  that was originally set at 10 days and earlier expanded by court order to 30. In addition to looking for duplicates and obviously bogus names, the Walker campaign had been attempting to verify addresses, the eligibility of each signatory and obvious forgeries. However, earlier this week the campaign announced they would not be challenging any signatures due to that time constraint.

“Despite these massive efforts, the time to challenge hundreds of thousands of signatures was simply unavailable,” said Walker campaign spokesperson Ciara Matthews.

Meanwhile state and national tea party groups amassed a volunteer army of 14,000 individuals who have entered the data from the petitions into a massive database. They have already estimated that circulators fell 140,000 signatures short of their alleged one million signatures and contend that if all the questionable signatures they found were discounted, the effort would not reach the 540,208 threshold that would trigger a recall.

However, the Government Accountability Board continues to contend it is legally prohibited from accepting challenges from that independent verification effort. Meaning a recall is almost certain.

The tea party groups have threatened to go to court to challenge the GAB’s decision not to review their findings, and the Walker campaign has requested the Board review the information those groups will submit.

“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 last month. “The truth is the truth. It doesn’t matter where it comes from.”

They have uncovered some interesting findings, for example.

  • More than 4,700 signatures on the Walker Recall were from out of state
  • Nearly 15,000 signatures came from dates outside the recall window
  • A signature by Donald Duck.  Mr. Duck’s address is a Starbucks in Appleton
  • More than 5,000 duplicate signatures, for example see those of Adam Triggs, below
  • Several signatures by Scott Walker.  Two examples in which the signers used Gov Walker’s name, then signed their own (or maybe not their own) and another that uses Scott Walker’s name and then offers up a profane comment

Officials with Verify the Recall have identified more than 228,000 additional signatures that, they say, merit investigation. These independent reviewers contend examples like theose pictured above cast doubt on the recall committee’s assertion that the documents were reviewed before they were submitted.

Finally, given the GAB’s insistence on requesting additional time to complete their nominal review, the timing of the vote remains up in the air. The timing of a recall election is further complicated by regularly scheduled contests this April, a federal law requiring the handling of machines used in those contests and even the Memorial Day Holiday.

Got that?

Meanwhile, the Verify the Recall project, directed by two Wisconsin-based tea party groups, announced today it is in the final stages of testing a program that will become a publicly accessible, online, searchable database of all recall signatures submitted in the Wisconsin gubernatorial and State Senator recalls.

The creation of such a program has been promised since December of last year, and although firm launch date has not yet been announced, the group has promised the information will be available to the public, soon.

According to organizers, the program will provide complete transparency of the recalls, and will empower individual Wisconsinites who chose to not sign a recall petition to contest fraudulent signatures referencing their own names and/or addresses. Legal affidavit forms contesting such signatures will be provided by VTR, completed by contesting individuals, and returned to VTR. VTR will submit the forms to the GAB as an addendum to its formal gubernatorial and State Senator recall signature eligibility reports.

While VTR’s primary purpose is to preserve the transparency and integrity of the recall process, organizers say they are sensitive to the concerns of individuals who have been afforded “confidential voting status” under Wisconsin Statute Section 6.47 by the government to protect their address information from being made publicly available. Individuals who have been granted confidential voting status and who would like their address information redacted from VTR’s publicly accessible, online, searchable database can send their written request which includes their name, address, and proof of confidential voting status.

As it stands now, the earliest the Recall could be held would be May 29, with a May 1 date for the anticipated Democratic Primary.

Government Accountability Board Director Kevin Kennedy issued a statement today regarding the Board’s potential requests for funding and for additional time to complete its work reviewing the six recall petitions:

In the last several days the GAB has given members of the Legislature two letters about the recall petition review process itself and the request for funding to pay for the work.

The letter seeking funds detailed two reasons the GAB may request more time.

  • Additional time to complete the data entry and duplicate check of the Lt. Governor petitions. While we had considered using statistical sampling methods to check for duplicates on the Lt. Governor petitions, we have decided to treat them exactly the same as the Governor and four State Senate recall petitions. That means having all the names entered into a database so they can be sorted to identify and eliminate duplicates.
  • Election scheduling issues. Wisconsin’s municipal clerks need time to complete work on the April 3 Spring Election and Presidential Preference Primary before starting their preparation for possible recall elections. We hope to schedule all elections on the same dates to reduce costs, and we also need to avoid scheduling conflicts with Memorial Day.

By state statute, the recall election must be held “on the Tuesday of the 6th week commencing after the date” the Board finds a recall petition to be sufficient and orders the election. Wis. Stat. s. 9.10(3)(b). If the Board ordered recall elections on the current March 19 deadline, an election would be called for May 1, and if that becomes a primary election, the general election date would be May 29, the day after Memorial Day.

Those dates however, would be dependent on the GAB not getting additional time to review the petitions and the unlikely prospect that no one else seeks to have a court intervene again.