Republican lawmakers signaled Tuesday that they will likely give Gov. Scott Walker authority over how recall petitions can be gathered, just as Democrats gear up to recall him next year.
The move would allow Walker to halt a policy developed by nonpartisan election officials that, at least in theory, could make it easier for groups to gather signatures to recall the governor, as well as legislators from either party. “You have given the governor control of the chicken coop, so to say,” Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) told Republicans.
But GOP lawmakers raised concerns that election officials had gone too far with their interpretation of state laws and said the governor and lawmakers should have a chance to weigh in on them. Under the changes Republicans are considering, Walker would also get to decide whether universities can put stickers on their identification cards that would allow them to be used for voting.
The Government Accountability Board, which oversees state elections, adopted policies this month about recall petitions and what student IDs can be used for voting.
Legislative leaders raised concerns about those procedures, and on Tuesday the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules took testimony from Kevin Kennedy, director of the accountability board. The co-chairs of the committee, Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa) and Rep. Jim Ott (R-Mequon), expressed skepticism of the policies and said they would likely ask the accountability board to adopt them as administrative rules.
Walker would have to sign off on such rules, and if he declined to do so, he could stop them entirely. If Walker approved them, the rules would then go before the committee, which could eventually block them, approve them or ask for modifications.
Ott said it was important for lawmakers to have the accountability board adopt the policies as rules.
“If (the committee) does nothing, you’ve got an agency that in my opinion is making law,” Ott said.
Walker spokesman Chris Schrimpf declined to comment on the committee’s proposal.
The accountability board this month ruled 5-1 that groups could use an online component to gathering recall petitions, though they stressed that voters could not electronically sign the petitions or submit them by computer.