On January 17, 2012, recall committees submitted recall signatures for Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, Sen. Pam Galloway, Sen. Terry Molten, and Sen. Van Wanggaard to Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board (“GAB”). Right away, the GAB began scanning recall petitions at a secret location. The GAB even set up a live web-cam where anyone can view the staff at work scanning and reviewing the recall signatures.
There have been many concerns that thousands of fraudulent signatures would be counted in the recalls. During the 60 day circulation period, there were many reports of apparent recall fraud, including one man telling WISN that he had signed over 80 times. Kevin Kennedy, the Director of the GAB, has said “if a person is signing this with the intent of artificially inflating the number of signatures turning in…then they are committing a fraud on the process.”
The recall committees claimed that they were working to weed out duplicate signatures before submitting their signatures to the GAB. However, the fact that they did not have an exact number of signatures they reported for the recalls seems to indicate looking for inaccuracies was not a priority for them.
The GAB has taken much criticism for their role in the recall process and their initial plans to minimally check the recall petitions before certifying them. At one point, a GAB staff member even indicated that Mickey Mouse and Adolf Hitler would be deemed valid signatures based upon their review. As a result, a Waukesha County judge then forced the GAB to do a more rigorous review by looking for and striking duplicate signatures, illegible signatures, and fake names.
Due to the numerous concerns about recall fraud, both the Republican Party of Wisconsin and a group called “Verify the Recall” announced that they would be reviewing the recall signatures. “Verify the Recall” is an independent effort of Wisconsin Tea Party groups to check the validity of all signatures submitted in the gubernatorial recall. “Verify the Recall” said they have over 10,000 volunteers to help their verification efforts.
The GAB completed scanning the four Senate Recalls on Friday. They posted the first round of scanned recall petitions online Friday evening, which marks the first time the public has had access to any of the recall petitions. Below is a brief accounting of errors discovered in just a small sampling of pages that could throw out 24 of 37 signatures:
- Two petition sheets were turned in that were identical (pages 1484 and 1485). One was for the Walker recall and one for the Galloway recall. While perhaps a mistake, instances like this pad the numbers for initial reports of recall signatures.
- Pages 4701-B and 4703 are also identical.
- Pages 4705 is a copy of 1584.
- On pages 4706-A, 4707, and 4709 the circulator failed to sign and a total of six signatures should be deemed invalid.
- Pages 4711 and 4714 show the circulator failing to print name and address.
- Page 4706-B shows an individual signing after the circulator has signed and dated the page.
- Page 4710 shows both a signer and circulator failing to date the petition page.
While some may deem these as inconsequential mistakes and errors, it is a reflection of a sloppy process accompanied by little oversight that failed to follow the proper procedures and guidelines outlined by the GAB. Many more of these examples will begin to pile up as the official review process begins.
“Verify the Recall” plans to enter all of the signatures into a database and cross-reference many different data sets to look for irregularities. The recall committees’ attempts to file such a large number of petitions coupled with their statements saying the recall signatures were “beyond legal challenge,” beg the question of how much fraud is really in the recall petitions? Only time will tell how much fraud has actually taken place, but we could be seeing electoral fraud that reaches an unprecedented level.
By Collin Roth