Today the six retired judges who comprise the Government Accountability Board voted to authorize staff to request a one week extension for the certification of the latest round of recalls. While the Board approved sufficient signatures for the four recalls against Republican Senators Fitzgerald, Wanggaard, Moulton and Galloway, GAB staff attorney Michael Haas recommended the they request a two week extension for the certification of signatures on petitions to recall Governor Scott Walker and Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch.
Haas argued that GAB staff and private contractors hired to do data entry did not have enough time to verify every signature and analyze duplicates before the March 19 deadline. He asked the board to request an additional two weeks from Dane County Judge Richard Niess, who had already granted an initial one month extension from February 19 to March 19.
Attorney Jeremy Levinson for the recall Walker campaign argued that, even given the numbers of signatures GAB reports are under scrutiny as potential duplicates, a large enough number of them meet the “statutory requirement for sufficiency.” He added that the required numbers of signatures for a certifiable recall “are now a mathematical certainty.”
Haas continued to press his case for extension, saying there was good cause due to timeline crunches for poll workers. Under current deadlines, a primary election would be scheduled for May 1, four weeks after April county and local elections. He also said that if there were to be a primary, that would take place May 1 and the recall election would happen the day after Memorial Day, putting an undue burden on poll workers.
None of the board members were willing to entertain the motion for a two week extension. At the prospect of no extension, GAB Director Kevin Kennedy reminded the board that he was given the authority to make decisions about litigation and that he would consult with the Chair about moving forward with the request. Judge David Deininger, GAB Chairman then told Kennedy that if the board gave him direction on the matter of pursuing an extension he “would be wise to follow it.”
The board then voted to authorize Kennedy to request a one week extension from the court, which would push the election dates out to May 8 and June 5 barring any legal challenges. Even though the GAB has determined the signatures for the senate recalls are all in order, they will certify all six recalls at the same time in order to coordinate election dates.
When asked by board members how the GAB would respond to a potential rejection of the request by Judge Neiss, Haas said they would have to develop a “plan B.” Director Kennedy explained that plan would involve the kind of mathematical analysis Attorney Levinson suggested to determine the sufficiency of enough signatures to trigger an election without having to verify and count every one of them.
That was the GAB’s original plan before Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge J. Mac Davis’ January ruling that required the GAB to do the work of identifying and throwing out duplicate signatures. That ruling has since been appealed and, in the words of Attorney Levinson, is “destined to be vacated.” Even so, GAB staff have decided to continue to operate as if it is still in force. According to Scott Walker’s attorney, Joe Olson of Michael, Best and Friederich, the decision by the GAB to voluntarily comply with an overturned Circuit Court ruling is the reason Walker is not pursuing a Supreme Court challenge to the Appeals Court ruling.
Pushing back the timelines on certification allows Walker to continue to raise an unlimited amount of money for his campaign. He is also raising money for a recently established legal defense fund surrounding the John Doe investigation into campaign violations around his 2010 bid for Governor. I asked Director Kennedy about whether or not the GAB had been notified that Walker is the subject of an investigation. He had no comment. Check out this link to the brief interview here.