Judge rules for Walker campaign on recall petition signature questions
This is excellent news for Walker - especially considering it is by no means certain that the coalition of big labor and online leftists who are seeking a recall election for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker can get the required number of signatures in time to beat the January 17 deadline.
They are going to find it considerably harder now.
A judge ruled Thursday that the state Government Accountability Board needs to take more aggressive action to vet recall signatures that are expected to be submitted in two weeks against Gov. Scott Walker and other Republican office holders.
The ruling by Waukesha County Circuit Judge J. Mac Davis came in a case filed Dec. 15 by Walker's campaign committee and Stephan Thompson, executive director of the state Republican Party, asking Davis to order the accountability board to seek out and eliminate duplicate and fictitious signatures and illegible addresses in recall petitions.
Davis, who refused to enter injunctions in the case, based his decision on his interpretation of state law, more than on equal protection arguments brought up by the Republicans. He also said that the board must take "reasonable" efforts to eliminate such signatures.
Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel of the board, said after the hearing that his organization would have to discuss the decision to see what it needed to change in procedures already in place.
In court, Kennedy testified that entering signatures into a database to look for duplicates could take eight extra weeks for his staff, and could cost $94,000 for software and outside help.
Steven M. Biskupic, attorney for the Republicans, argued that not catching invalid signatures violated the constitutional rights to equal protection of people who chose not to sign recall petitions.
He also cited a media report that one man claimed he'd signed recall petitions 80 times, and submitted a petition from last summer's attempt to recall Sen. Jim Holperin (D-Conover), in which the accountability board allowed a "Bugs Bunny" signature to be counted. Kennedy said the signature was counted because Holperin didn't follow the proper procedures for challenging it.
It's not so much the duplicates that will make a difference; it's the illegible addresses which is a ploy sometimes used to mask one person signing a petition many times. Of course, the illegible addresses are also the result of petition signers who are in a hurry, or who have illegible handwriting to begin with. All of those will now be challenged, along with obvious fakes like "Bugs Bunny."
Momentum to recall Walker seems to have stalled. It's hard to see how they can recapture it at this late date.