By Ryan Ekvall | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON — The state's elections watchdog is saying thanks, but no thanks, to another pair of eyes in the vetting of recall petition signatures, turning down assistance from a conservative-leaning group engaged in its own petition review.
“We are finding abnormalities. We are finding duplicates, and we will make all this information open to the public and available,” Larry Gamble from the Wisconsin GrandSons of Liberty, an organization sympathetic to the tea party agenda, and Verify the Recall, told members of the Government Accountability Board, or GAB, Tuesday.
Verify the Recall, a joint venture between the Grandsons of Liberty and We the People of the Republic, a tea party organization in Madison, wants to assist the GAB in the review of the hundreds of thousands of signatures on recall petitions targeting Republicans Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four GOP senators.
The group said it has attracted thousands of volunteers to enter data from the recall petitions into proprietary software owned by True the Vote, a separate organization based in Texas, dedicated to an effort to “restore truth, faith, and integrity to our elections.”
The GAB said the recall petition review is a two-part process.
The first step is the agency's facial review of the petition, meaning the GAB makes a reasonable effort to strike out duplicate, fake or fictitious signatures. In spite of a decision by an appellate court to vacate Waukesha County Circuit Judge Davis' earlier ruling demanding the board remove duplicate or fake names, the GAB on Tuesday said it will proceed as scheduled with its vetting process.
The second step is where officeholders challenge signatures and petitioners respond. The GAB then makes final decision on the challenges.
Verify the Recall asked the GAB to use data outputted by Verify's software to address petition problems, such as
- Undated signatures
- Signatures from outside the petition circulation period
- Signatures from outside the incumbent's district (in the case of targeted senators)
- Signatures from persons known to be deceased
- Fictitious signatures
Verify the Recall claims it has found plenty of examples of problem signatures.
Thanks, but no thanks
Ross Brown, with We the People of the Republic and Verify the Recall, told the GAB the initiative is providing a way for Wisconsinites to be involved in the unprecedented recall petition verification process. He said the effort has attracted 13,000 volunteers from Wisconsin and around the country.
Kevin Kennedy, GAB director and legal counsel, said public comment is welcome in shaping public policy, but not in making legal determinations.
"And our rules do not provide for (such third-party involvement) at this point," he said.
The rules leave some individuals unsure of how to proceed when they find inconsistencies on petitions, though a GAB official said the agency will make accommodations to resolve that issue.
“What we will do, is to put something on the (GAB) website saying that if people have these concerns, or if they actually find something on the petitions that is suspect, that they should contact the individual incumbents,” Reid Magney, spokesman for the GAB, wrote in an email to Wisconsin Reporter.
Members of Verify the Recall said the group will move forward despite the GAB ruling.
“Right now we have thousands of people helping us enter data from the governor recall petitions. When that one is done, we’ll work on the lieutenant governor petitions,” said Gamble, who noted that Verify the Recall expects to post senatorial recall findings Wednesday on its website. “We can give information to the GAB and we can make it available to the public.”
Although Verify the Recall is a registered 501(c)4 organization, which means it cannot contact or coordinate with a target of the recall or a political party, nothing prevents Republicans facing recall from using the data made available online to assist in the challenging of petitions process.
In other action, the GAB approved student identification from technical colleges as valid for voting under the state's Voter ID Law.
The ID needs to meet certain requirements to be considered valid at the polls:
- Must be active
- Must contain the date of issue
- Must contain a photograph of the individual
- Must contain a signature of the individual to whom it is issued
- Must contain an expiration date that is no later than two years after it was issued.
In addition, the voter must establish that he is enrolled as a student at the technical college.
The GAB ruling prohibits student identification issued by a private trade, correspondence, business or technical school based outside the state.
The GAB will submit the identification ruling to the governor for his decision.
Recall petitioner and intellectual properties lawyer Amy Moran, of Madison, raised privacy concerns about information of recall petition signers posted online. The GAB stuck by its decision to make petitions available on its website, reiterating that petitioning, unlike voting, is a public process.