After a review of petition signatures, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board has approved recall elections for three Democrats.
The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, which oversees elections in the state, has now green-lit three recalls targeting Democratic state Sens. Dave Hansen, Jim Holperin and Robert Wirch -- but it was a close call, as the board grappled all through the day with a topic that isn't discussed too much in the media: Alleged election fraud that is perpetrated by Republicans.
It's nice to see a focus on the GOP brand of election fraud, particularly in the form of paid petition gatherers, a topic I've written about before after seeing what they've done here in California.
Memos to the board lay out the specific challenges to petition signatures enumerated in the three senators' challenges to the petitions, and they do make recommendations on how to dispose with those challenges.
Bottom line: These individual challenges leave enough valid signatures in each recall effort to force an election. That would be 15,636 valid signatures against Hansen (compared with 13,852 needed to force an election); 19,446 for Holperin (compared with 15,960 needed); and 17,139 for Wirch (13,537 needed).
But there's a separate memo that deals at length with the Democrats' allegations that there was substantial fraud employed in collecting signatures against the senators. Among the claims: Circulators misstated their addresses on the petitions, misled some of the signers, and illegally certified petitions that had been collected by others.
The board's staff leaves open several options for the board: To follow a rule that only individual signatures could be thrown out, and not whole pages of signatures (this was a rule argued for by Republicans replying to the Democratic challenges); to throw out those pages of signatures collected by certain circulators alleged to have committed fraud; or to throw out the entire petitions because the whole process was tainted by fraud.
Here's a textbook description of how those professional gatherers operate:
Democrats had used their ten-day response period, after Republican activists had submitted the completed petitions, to conduct extensive phone surveys of the people whose names were on the forms. Along the way, they produced affidavits from people alleging various dirty tricks, ranging from claims that they were misled into signing -- being told that it was to support the legislator in question, or to recall Walker, etc -- to claims from some individuals that they did not sign their names at all, but were forged as having done so (possibly by getting their names from the phonebook).
Most notoriously, the Dems found the purported signature of a man who had been dead for 20 years, but whose name was still in the phonebook (by peculiar circumstance, he was the father of a very liberal current Democratic state representative). In addition, they found a married couple for whom the signatures were clearly written in the same hand -- but both people have signed affidavits that neither of them actually did sign.
Bottom line: Even if the pages were tossed which had fraudently obtained signatures, there would be enough signatures for the recall. The Republican State Senators' recall election will be held July 12, and the Democrats' recall election will be held July 19.