A tea party review of recall petitions did not use the proper standards for judging signatures, an attorney for the state’s election agency reported Tuesday. “The methodology they used just would not have worked for us and would have not been valid or legal under the law and administrative code that governs recall petitions,” attorney Mike Haas told the Government Accountability Board. The agency in March found recalls were warranted against Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four of their fellow Republicans in the state Senate. The elections are scheduled for June 5. While the agency spent months reviewing more than 1 million signatures against the six officials, tea party groups banded together for a project they called Verify the Recall. They had volunteers type information from hand-written petitions into online databases and then used software to determine how many signatures were valid.
The accountability board used a separate process, which involved employees reviewing the signatures and creating their own database. The accountability board did not rely on Verify the Recall’s findings to determine the validity of the signatures, but Haas said he wanted to look at their work after the fact to help decide if such information could be helpful in future recall efforts. But he said the tea party groups were overly strict in recommending throwing out signatures. For instance, they did not count someone’s name if they used a middle initial in their signature but spelled out their full middle name elsewhere on the petition. “The software used a standard that was much more exacting than what is in the state statute,” Haas said.
The tea party groups also concluded some people did not live in Wisconsin when in fact they did, apparently because the software they used did not recognize all Wisconsin municipalities, Haas said. The groups also identified as duplicates all people living at the same address with the same name, even though in many cases they were a parent and child who had the same name. Verify the Recall issued a statement Tuesday saying its work was important, but not perfect.