By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON — A little advice for those who want to pop in and observe the recall petition review: Stay home and watch it on television.
Only staff members and temporary employees of the Government Accountability Board, or GAB, which oversees state elections and campaigns, will be permitted in an at-present undisclosed location.
And speaking of temp jobs, the board has had a hard time filling the petition review positions, mainly because too many prospective employment candidates have signed recall petitions targeting Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.
GAB employees Thursday continued scanning some 1.9 million signatures, after having completed scans of about 90 000 recall petitions against four GOP state senators — Pam Galloway of Wausau, Terry Moulton of Chippewa Falls, Van Wanggaard of Racine, all freshman Republicans, and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau.
Reid Magney, GAB spokesman, said once the scanning is completed, media will be allowed to come in for “limited periods of time” to observe, and take pictures — basically a petition vetting photo op.
“That’s going to be it,” Magney said. “There will be no public gallery, no permanent media gallery.”
Asked whether that would limit the power of interested parties to observe the massive signature review, Magney said that’s why GAB has the webcam.
The camera went up late Tuesday afternoon after the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and affiliated groups turned in the recall documents. On the webcam at the GAB website, viewers can see the monotonous business of people shuffling and scanning forms and moving files and packets around.
Soon, many of those same people will be eyeing tens of thousands of signatures to at least facially check the validity of the signer.
“The thing to remember about this is, these people are working,” Magney said. “The general public doesn’t have the right to sit at my desk and watch me work.
“We’re doing our best to provide the public with transparency on this project, but on the other hand, capital police are advising us, for our security, we can’t have people coming and going.”
Incumbent representatives will receive copies of the recall documents, and simultaneously conduct their reviews, searching for duplicates, fictitious or fraudulent names.
The Republican Party of Wisconsin accepts the protocol, which prohibits representatives from either process to observe GAB.
“We understand the verification process is not a partisan process,” said Ben Sparks, GOP spokesman, adding the party is rolling out its “massive” volunteer effort to verify signatures.
Mike Tate, chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, did not return calls from Wisconsin Reporter seeking comment.
Sparks said the GOP is “pleased” with the steps GAB has taken so far in working to “strike fraudulent signatures” from the petitions.
That work has yet to be done, but a Waukesha County judge earlier this month ordered the board to do all in its power to strike duplicate and false names.
The camera, however, won’t cover all the business conducted in the GAB vetting room.
Magney said procedures are in place to secure the integrity of the unprecedented project.
“You can’t see it in the (webcam) shot, but off to the left-hand side we have capital police monitoring everyone who comes in,” Magney said. “We’re signing everyone in and out to make sure no one takes anything out of the building they shouldn’t.”
The board is looking to bolster its temporary staff of 30 to 50 employees in the coming days.
GAB Director Kevin Kennedy earlier this week acknowledged that the nonpartisan board, or at least the temp agency doing the hiring, has had trouble finding nonpartisan people to fill the ranks. Several candidates, Kennedy said, were disqualified because they had signed recall petitions.
Employees must meet general requirements. They are prohibited to work on statewide partisan campaigns or donate to such campaigns. GAB employees, however, may run for or be affiliated with county or municipal nonpartisan races.
Signing recall petitions, too, is a big no-no.
Magney said GAB hopes to get the word out, and quickly fill the positions.
“If people are looking for indoor office work with no heavy lifting required, there still are jobs available,” he said The hourly wage ranges between $9 and $11 per hour, depending on the employee's job classification and from which employment agency he was hired.
The state contracted agencies include:
- ABR Employment Services (608-268-2266)
- Adtec Services (608-231-3210)
- DI & Associates (formerly Spherion, 608-274-6000)
- Hiring & Staff Services (608-242-7885)
Potential employees, like recall signatures, go through a vetting process by the temp agency, Magney said. GAB staff then interview the candidates.
Even if a temporary worker should come in with partisan predispositions, Magney said there are a lot of eyes on the petitions through the review.
“No one temporary employee could sink the ship, shall we say,” he said.