An appeals court in Wisconsin on Friday ordered a judge in conservative Waukesha County to vacate his ruling and rehear the arguments of a lawsuit filed by the state Republicans about the procedures for counting signatures in the recall effort. The big issue: That the judge had refused to allow Democratic recall organizers to get involved in the case and make arguments.
This means that Democrats are getting another bite at the apple on this matter — depending on the outcome of the additional litigation, state election officials may not have to spend as much additional time reviewing the signatures, which would further delay the election. (However, officials at the state Government Accountability Board, which oversees elections, did tell the Wisconsin State Journal that they will still continue to strike out “obviously fictitious” names.)
“To summarize, the recall committees have an interest in the complaint’s proposed relief,” the three-judge panel wrote unanimously on the Democrats’ appeal, “because such relief may include new procedures not required by law that may result in (1) striking valid signatures and placing an increased burden on the committees at a later stage of the review process and (2) causing delay to the recall process.”
A month ago, the Waukesha County judge had ruled that the Government Accountability Board must make a greater effort to screen out duplicate or fake petition signatures — rather than abide by the pre-existing rules, which had placed the burden mainly on the elected officials targeted for recall.
Previously, the judge had ruled against the Dems’ motion to intervene, which meant that the arguments were then conducted exclusively between the state GOP and the election board’s attorney. It is this decision that has formed the main basis of this appeal.
Meanwhile, the State Journal also reports that GAB officials are describing just what a daunting task this would be:
Friday’s ruling comes days after GAB Director Kevin Kennedy provided details about the board’s plans to comply with Judge Davis’ order to find and remove duplicate signatures. Kennedy told WisconsinEye (sic) that the creation of a database containing both names and addresses wasn’t practical or economically feasible.
“When we do our duplicate review, we may have a searchable database, but it will be limited just to names,” he said. “We will not include addresses in that because our focus is only to implement that part of the court’s decision that deals with being proactively looking for duplicates.”
Kennedy is expected to discuss the issue in more detail Tuesday, during GAB’s next meeting.
The lawsuit was filed by the state GOP in Waukesha County, the state’s major Republican stronghold, and ended up being assigned to Judge J. Mac Davis. Davis was a Republican state Senator over 20 years ago, and during the final years of the Bush administration, he was nominated for a federal circuit judgeship, but the nomination was never taken up by the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Since then, a separate court in Dane County (Madison and the surrounding towns) has granted the GAB an extension on the time it needs to review the 1.9 million total signatures filed against Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, and four Republican state senators. The GAB was granted a 30-day extension, in addition to its statutory 31-day review period — but also said it could potentially need to seek even more than the time it had originally planned for, because of Davis’s requirements that they actively search for invalid signatures. Walker’s campaign was also granted 30 days total to review the signatures in order to file challenges.