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 officeholders.
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 bogus signatures and illegible addresses from recall petitions.
Davis, who refused to enter injunctions in the case, based his decision on his interpretation of state law, more than on constitu tional equal protection arguments brought up by the Republicans. He also said that the board must take “reasonable” actions to eliminate such signatures.
“The defendant must take all reasonable steps to affirmatively protect the rights of electors in recall races and reviews,” he said, but added, “That obligation is limited by the resources and ability they have or are reasonably able to obtain.”
Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel of the board, said after the hearing that his organization would have to discuss Davis’ decision to see what it needs to change in the procedures it already has in place.
“The court gave us an awful lot of discretion to determine what’s reasonable and to do it within our resources,” Kennedy said. He also said: “The biggest challenge is, what’s reasonable to sort out duplicates?”
In court, Kennedy testified that entering signatures into a database and looking for duplicates could take eight extra weeks for his staff. He also said hiring an outside vendor to search for duplicates could cost $94,000 – and even then there was no guarantee the vendor’s software would work on handwritten signatures. Davis pointed out that the board could ask the Legislature for more money for staff and get the job done faster.