Court Rules GAB Must Do It’s Job

A win for Governor Scott Walker.

A Waukesha County judge ruled Thursday that the Government Accountability Board has to verify signatures on recall petitions against the governor.

Judge Mac Davis ordered state election officials to “take affirmative steps” to remove fake or duplicate names from recall petitions.

The GAB now has to look for bogus names, duplicate names and check if a signature is from a valid voter on recall petitions.

GAB Director Kevin Kennedy says they have some reorganzing to do.

“We’ll go back and look at the procedures to instruct the staff to do what’s in line with the court order,” said Kennedy.

Joe Olson of “Friends of Scott Walker” told TODAY’S TMJ4, “I think the court made a very firm statement.  The integrity of this process matters and the gab has to take affirmative steps in assuring that valid signatures are the only signatures counted.”

What’s disappointing is that it took a court order to make the GAB do it’s job.

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GAB delays …

when it comes to reviewing the recall petitions against Democrat State Senators.

GAB announced on Friday that it would need to delay consideration of petitions against Democratic Sens. Robert Wirch of Pleasant Prairie, Jim Holperin of Conover and Dave Hansen of Green Bay because election staff needed more time to review the Democratic challenges to the petitions. Staff Counsel Shane Falk said staff worked significant overtime during the holiday weekend to complete their review of the Darling petition before focusing on the petitions targeting Democrats, which had more complex legal issues.

The board proceeded after GAB director Kevin Kennedy recommended they move forward with the petitions against GOP senators. Kennedy said the move would provide a fuller record when they ask a circuit court for an extension on the remaining three petitions.

The result at least from a public relations standpoint, is a look of partisanship and bias.

Eric McLeod, attorney for the conservative petitioners, said the board was in violation of a court order to finish their review of those petitions by June 3. He said that the board either needed to adjourn without considering the three petitions against the GOP senators or to consider the petitions against Democrats as planned.

“This is simply unacceptable,” McLeod said. “The GAB is designed to be a non-partisan agency and any implication of partisan bias in the work that it does should be of great concern to the members of this board.”

It also led to a call by organizers of the recalls against the Democrat State Senators for the head of Government Accountability Board to resign.

This move angered residents attached to the efforts to recall Democratic senators David Hansen of Green Bay, Robert Wirch of Pleasant Prairie and Jim Holperin of Conover, prompting them to call for Kennedy’s resignation Tuesday.

But it’s not only the decision to postpone the vote that has some residents angry. They’re also upset the delay could bump back the recall election date for Democratic senators.

Orville Seymer, director of field operations for the Milwaukee-based Citizens Responsible for Government, or CRG, Network, said the GAB’s actions are unfairly and purposefully affecting the momentum of each party heading into the recall election dates — the Democrats in a positive way; the Republicans in a negative way.

The CRG Network is a conservative-leaning grassroots organization involved in, among other things, recalling Democratic senators who fled the state in an attempt to prevent the necessary quorum for the Senate to vote on Gov. Scott Walker’s collective bargaining bill.

“It is a big concern that the recall elections for the Democratic senators could be held after July 12,” Seymer said. “It all goes back to momentum.”

Dan Hunt, a Pleasant Prairie resident who led the recall effort against Wirch, agreed two election dates would not bode well for Republicans.

“I thought they (GAB staff) were non-partisan,” Hunt said. “But this proves they are not.”

Kennedy scoffed at the criticism.

“We are the referees,” Kennedy said. “The referees in any situation are going to be criticized…that comes with the territory. The board simply said ‘We recognize that there are political sensitivities.’ But they also recognized that the staff approached this in an unbiased and non-partisan manner, as they are charged by statute and as is the way they have exhibited themselves.”

The only problem is with Kennedy’s explanation is that it doesn’t pass the smell test.

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Unchartered Territory

One thing is certain in the Wisconsin State Supreme Court race: an historic recount is on the horizon.

Wisconsin’s election chief said Wednesday he expects the unofficial vote totals in the state Supreme Court race to change as local officials verify the counts before an expected recount that would be the first of its kind in modern state history.

Little-known attorney JoAnne Kloppenburg declared victory over incumbent state Supreme Court Justice David Prosser on Wednesday based on unofficial totals showing her with a scant 204-vote margin out of nearly 1.5 million cast in Tuesday’s election.

Prosser’s campaign has not said yet whether it plans to ask for a recount, but it’s expected they will. If they do, it would mark the first time since 1858 that a statewide recount has been launched in a race involving candidates, Government Accountability Board director Kevin Kennedy said. The last statewide recount was on a 1989 tax referendum.

The unofficial totals showing Kloppenburg with a narrow lead are “very good numbers,” Kennedy said, but they will change.

“There will be changes because this is a very human-driven process,” Kennedy said. “We expect mistakes. . . . Our goal will be to make sure every ballot is counted and every discrepancy on election day is accounted for.”

Here’s what happens next.

Municipal clerks were required to submit all their paperwork to all 72 county clerks by the end of the business day Wednesday. Each county’s board of canvassers is then charged with reconciling the totals, making sure the ballots in hand match the number of people who voted, beginning Thursday morning.

They have until April 15 to submit the canvassed totals, but Kennedy said he expects them to arrive before then. Once the last report is in, the candidates have three business days to ask for a recount.

The latest the recount could start is April 21, and Kennedy expected it would be done before the state must finalize the vote on May 15.

Ironically the final outcome could be decided by the State Supreme Court.

A legal challenge to the results can be filed after the county canvassing boards meet. Under the law, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson assigns a reserve judge to hear all the challenges, which could come from multiple counties, Kennedy said.

An appeal of that decision would go to the state appeals court based in Madison. Kennedy said he believes that decision could be appealed to the seven-member Supreme Court, where Prosser is a sitting justice. If the court deadlocked 3-3, the lower court’s ruling would stand.

Looks like Wisconsin will continue to be in the national spotlight.

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