By Kevin Lee Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON - With a recall effort in full swing, the state agency that oversees elections is trying to head off any administrative complications before petitions are submitted.
Angry voters have initiated recall attempts on almost half of the state Senate, following the contentious politicking between Democrats and Republicans over Gov. Scott Walker's budget adjustment legislation that included changes to union organization and collective bargaining.
State law guides how recall actions are administered, but in light of the unprecedented recall rush, the Government Accountability Board wanted to clarify some matters on Tuesday, including who can submit a completed recall petition and what information can be pre-filled on a petition before an individual seeks signatures.
"Today really was a day to make sure that the board was supporting the advice the staff was giving and make sure by doing it in a public meeting, give the public a chance to raise any questions about how that advice was being prepared and distributed," said GAB Director Kevin Kennedy.
Eau Claire County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Barland, chairman of the GAB, stressed the need for a "fair amount of publicity" to inform voters about the clarifications.
Some of the motions passed by the GAB to clarify standards include:
The complete date at the time of signature, month, day and year, must be included with each and every valid signature. Petitions may be filled in prior to voters' signatures, but voters must provide their own signatures. Voters must confirm the information on the petition is accurate.
Petition forms can only go to committees that have registered with the GAB. Kennedy said that unregistered individuals were printing out online copies of petition forms, obtaining signatures, and submitting them to the agency.
State statutes prohibit state and local public officials from using the power of their office to circulate a recall petition.
A GAB memorandum indicated that state and local employees are not explicitly prohibited under state law from circulating recall petitions while on state time. Restrictions and disciplinary consequences would be up to the employer to enforce.
The GAB memorandum also indicated that circulating petitions on government property is up to the state or local authority that owns the building. State-owned buildings are under the purview of the Department of Administration.
During the recall effort, there is no limit on how much an individual or committee may contribute to a petition committee. However, those contributed funds must be applied to costs of recall efforts, including circulation, filing and legal efforts.
"These are expensive efforts," Kennedy said in reference to recall efforts. "That's why the Legislature took the limits off of these efforts, but we didn't get rid of the disclosure. The public will get to see through regular finance reports where did the money come from and how it was spent."
There is a little more than a month to go before petitioners begin submitting recall signatures for consideration. Depending on the district, petitioners are required to obtain between 11,817 and 20,973 valid signatures to force a recall election.
Once petitions are submitted, the GAB has a month to review the validity of the signatures. Elected officials who are the subject of a recall petition have 10 days to review its validity and determine if they wish to pursue a legal challenge.
GAB has received paperwork for 22 separate committees seeking to recall 16 state senators, and even if a fraction of petitions are submitted for review, the process may be slowed for weeks by legal challenges from elected officials.
The board has not determined when to hold a recall election if any of the recall efforts are successful. Members of GAB will be present at the Assembly Elections and Campaign Reform Committee meeting on Thursday to discuss several election issues, including a possible recall election date, with several other groups.
For more information about recall efforts and procedures, visit: http://gab.wi.gov/elections-voting/recall
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